Amid talk of rift, Farooq gives Mehbooba Mufti free hand in alliance seat-sharing

SRINAGAR: The newly formed People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Sunday authorised..

SRINAGAR: The newly formed People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Sunday authorised PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti to choose which seats her party would like to contest in the first-ever District Development Council polls in J&K, setting at rest speculation about discord among the constituents of the non-BJP caucus over seat-sharing.
A senior PAGD functionary said chairman Farooq Abdullah initiated the move by personally calling Mehbooba to join a meeting convened by him amid talk of resentment among the alliance partners over National Conference hogging the lion's share of 22 seats for the first phase of the elections on November 28. The former CM deputed PDP general secretary G N Lone Hanjura to represent her at the meeting at Farooq's residence.
Late Sunday, the alliance announced that NC and PDP would contest eight seats each out of the 27 that will go to polls in the second phase. Congress has been given three and Sajad Lone's Peoples Conference four seats.
While Mehbooba has yet to comment on the seat-sharing ratio, PDP veteran Muzaffar Hussian Beig and some of his colleagues haven't hidden their disappointment at NC leaving just four seats to their party for the first phase of the elections. Beig threatening to quit over Mehbooba's silence on the subject forced the alliance leadership's hand, sources said.
Peoples Conference, another key constituent of the eight-party alliance, will be contesting only two seats in the first phase. The CPM is said to be unhappy over the Pombay Kulgam seat being given to PDP for the second phase of polling.
Farooq contested allegations about fissures in the alliance, saying all the constituents were in sync and committed to the larger goal of fighting for restoration of J&K's special status. "Everything is fine with the People's Alliance," he said after the carte blanche to Mehbooba on seat-sharing for the remaining seven phases of the polls.
Hanjura echoed the NC chief and former CM. "Seat-sharing for the DDC polls is not important to us. We are fighting for a bigger cause. Our fight is to get Kashmir's pre-August 5, 2019, status restored."
PCC president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who was at Farooq's residence on Sunday, reiterated Congress's commitment to the PAGD, which many had doubted until the party participated in its first meeting of the alliance last week.
Allaying fears that the alliance might disintegrate ovet seat-sharing, Mir appealed to voters across J&K to step out and cast their votes in the maiden DDC elections and "give a befitting response to BJP".
The Gupkar alliance was initiated by NC in October within days of Mehbooba being released from 14 months of detention, most of it under the Public Safety Act.
In Rajouri, J&K BJP general secretary and former MLC Vibodh Gupta described PAGD as "a sinking ship".
"The PAGD is trying to spread unrest instead of development and employment," he said at a party rally.
(With inputs from Sanjay Khajuria in Jammu)

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