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Sajad Lone quits Gupkar Alliance 3 months after its formation

SRINAGAR: Less than three months after the Peoples' Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of Jammu and Kashmir's mainstream parties demanding restoration of Article 370 was formed ,it received a jolt on Tuesday with Sajad Lone deciding to withdraw his Peoples' Conference from the group.

The six parties in the PAGD had recently fought district development council (DDC) polls together.

Lone wrote to PAGD chairperson and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah saying that the party decided to part ways over the issue of fielding proxy candidates by constituent parties against the officially mandated candidates of the alliance during DDC elections.

"No party is willing to cede space; no party is willing to sacrifice. We fought against each other in Kashmir province not against the perpetrators of August 5 (2019). And those who perpetrated August 5 and their minions are now vocally gleeful. It is difficult for us to stay on and pretend as if nothing has happened," Lone wrote.

"Trust between allying partners who have been rivals all along can be very elusive and extremely fragile. Proxies have made it perpetually elusive. This alliance needed sacrifice," he said.

The PAGD was formed on October 20, 2020 after six political parties, some of them rivals - National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, CPI(M), Awami National Conference, Peoples' Conference and Peoples' Movement came together to fight for the restoration of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.that was revoked on August 5, 2019.

The alliance fought the District Development Council polls jointly on individual party symbols, which was held in November-December and won an impressive 110 seats of the total 280 constituencies.

Lone alleged that in a majority of the places where the party fielded candidates on behalf of PAGD, it was either left to fend for itself or other parties compounded the problem by fielding proxy candidates.

"DDC elections per se may not matter institutionally. But... it was less of an election and more of an opportunity to send a strong unanimous political message," he said.

Lone said apart from the number of seats that PAGD won, another important statistical variable in the context of August 5 was the number of votes polled against the PAGD.

"We believe that the votes polled against the PAGD are majorly the votes cast by proxies of PAGD constituent parties against official PAGD candidates. And the net outcome of selectively voting for and against PAGD is a very poor vote share. This is certainly not the vote share that people of J and K deserved post August 5," he said.

Lone, however, said that they would continue to support the alliance on the objective for which it was formed.

"I would however want to add that we are divorcing from the alliance not its objectives... And the PAGD leadership should be assured that we will extend support on all issues which fall within the ambit of stated objectives. We have issued clear instructions to all party leaders not to issue any statements against PAGD alliance or its leaders," he said.

Sources said Lone was under pressure from two senior leaders of Peoples Conference, vice president Abdul Gani Vakil and party general secretary, Imran Reza Ansari to quit the alliance as this was suicidal for the party, especially in the areas of north Kashmir where the party has a strong presence. Ansari had recently written to Lone asking him to end the alliance for the party's benefit.

Sources said the party was also angry as the National Conference leaders have started meeting Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and for not holding any meeting of the PAGD especially after they won 110 seats. Lone was the spokesman of the alliance.

Peoples Conference spokesman Adnan Ashraf said the party quit the alliance to survive. "Many of our party leaders were against this alliance from day one. Also we contested elections on our own and no alliance was visible on the ground. So our party decided to part ways."

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