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J&K deal awaits Congress seal

Srinagar, March 7: The ruling National Conference and the Congress are close to sealing an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

NC and Congress sources said the two parties had reached an informal understanding under which they will contest three seats each in the state.

“The formal announcement will be made soon in Delhi. We have been strongly opposing the alliance but the party high command is not relenting,” a Congress source said.

The state has six parliamentary constituencies, three in Kashmir, two in Jammu and one in Ladakh.

The NC had already announced its candidates — Farooq Abdullah for Srinagar, Mehboob Beg for Anantnag and Sharief ud din Shariq for Baramulla seats in the Valley.

For the Congress, three seats — Jammu and Udhampur in Jammu and Ladakh — have been set aside. But the Congress has not announced its candidates yet.

The two parties have been finding it difficult to forge an alliance because of opposition from within, despite sharing power in the state for the past five years.

The NC and the Congress had entered into a post-poll alliance after the 2008 Assembly elections. For the first time, they sealed a pre-poll deal for the national elections in 2009.

The NC won all the three seats and the Congress two. Ladakh was won by an NC rebel who had the covert backing of his party.

The opposition to the alliance this time has been more pronounced in the state Congress. A section has been favouring an understanding with a former ally, the People’s Democratic Party. Other Congress leaders have been contending that chief minister Omar Abdullah is facing strong anti-incumbency.

But the Congress high command is apparently favouring the alliance with the NC because of indications that Narendra Modi has rejuvenated the party cadres in Jammu. The BJP hopes to win both the seats in Jammu.

Kicking off the poll campaign, Omar today told the gathering that his party was committed to strengthening secular forces.