The Mufti Touch to PDP Electoral Strategy
NEW DELHI: Peoples Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is crafting the possible victory of the party in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. He has opened full channels of communication with the Congress party, even as relations with the BJP are being maintained on an even keel.
Negotiations are on between the PDP and the Congress for essential in-the-closet seat adjustments that could bloom to a post poll alliance if the numbers add up. Several Congress leaders like Saifuddin Soz are bending over backwards to placate Mufti so that the PDP puts up a “weak” candidate against his son Salman Soz. Sources said that Salman’s chances of winning the Baramulla Assembly seat which he is likely to contest are not high,as the Congress party does not have a base to boast of in this constituency.
Mufti, an astute politician who was the Union Home Minister earlier, is aware that any alignment with the BJP pre or post poll will be a ‘kiss of death’ insofar as the PDP is concerned. At the same time he is clear that if elected to power the PDP will have to make common cause with the BJP as the ruling party at the centre on several issues to ensure sufficient funds in the coming years. The intention thus is to keep the BJP in good humour and old timers recall that Mufti had no hesitation in organising a big rally for former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Jammu and Kashmir, and would not hesitate to do the same for the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, while willing to extend all possible cooperation to New Delhi Mufti Sayeed has let it be known to some of his supporters that the PDP would not form a government with the BJP, and being basically a die hard Congressman he would like to be in alliance with his former party. Or at least so he has been maintaining,according to sources, who believe that the PDP leader would keep both on his side but go with the Congress in the final analysis if, of course, they get the requisite number of seats. Interestingly, the PDP is at present optimistic about getting over 30 seats that will place it in an excellent bargaining position, if it happens of course.
There is worry in the PDP about the rise of the BJP and its efforts to gain a base in the Valley. The PDP leadership thus is wary of encouraging this through electoral alliances. The BJP is currently in touch with Peoples Conference leader Sajjad Lone as well in a bid to gain more than a foothold in Kashmir as well.
The BJP that hopes to do well in Jammu and Leh will be in opposition to the Congress party that the sources said has marginally improved its position in the state. This, however is an untested claim at the moment, as the last indicator--the Lok Sabha elections--demonstrated a complete rout of the party in the state.
The National Conference and the Congress are no longer in alliance largely because both feel that a tie up with the other will be prejudicial to their interests, and also because the Congress party has moved to look earnestly at greener pastures of the PDP kind. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will be campaigning for survival with his back against the wall. He is expected to contest from two Assembly seats Sonawar and Hazratbal and is expected to lose from the latter. Sonawar will be a tough fight as well for the National Conference leader. So far his father Farooq Abdullah has not made up his mind about contesting the elections, with indications that he will not do so.