With exit of prominent leaders, is NC losing ground?

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After losing two senior leaders Devender Singh Rana and S L Salathia from Jammu last week, the National Conference (NC) suffered another jolt after former finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s son joined Peoples conference (PC) on Saturday.

Hilal Rather, whose father was a finance minister in NC –Congress government joined PC today at Sajad Lone’s residence in Srinagar.

Talking with the media, Rather said that his choice to join PC over his father’s party was his personal decision as he wants to be a part of the “positive politics” and work for the welfare of the people.

“I didn’t consult with my father before making this decision. My father has always given me the space to make my own decisions. And as I decided to join politics I didn’t think of anyone but Sajad Lone,” Rather said.

In the past two days, rumours were rife that Rahim Rather along with some senior NC leaders were planning to join the PC, however, NC on Thursday termed the news “baseless and far from reality.”

Lone after welcoming Hilal into the party fold said that in future many NC leaders might join his party, “but it will be upto them to choose of the lot.”

On 11 October, senior leaders Devendra Singh Rana and Surjit Singh Salathia joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday, a day after quitting the NC.

Rana, the three-time legislator representing the Nagrota constituency in Jammu province joined the BJP in the presence of Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan, Hardeep Singh Puri and his younger brother Jitendra Singh.

The exit of Rana, who has served as the NC’s provincial president in Jammu, was seen as a big blow to the secular credentials of the NC in the region.

Talking with the media in Jammu, Rana said that quitting NC would help him to focus on the “Jammu declaration” which is based to provide the rights of Jammu people.

However, many Kashmir based politicians saw the Jammu declaration as a counter to the agenda of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) to fight for the restoration of special status of the erstwhile state.

Sources said that many senior leaders in NC were not happy with Rana’s conduct post abrogation of the Article 370, but he was strongly backed by the NC vice- president Omar Abdullah. Rana was considered a close friend to Abdullah.

In an interview to a New Delhi based news portal, Abdullah terming Rana’s exit as a “personal loss for him” said that he had “shielded Davindera Singh Rana and Salathia from the “sort of conspiracies in the party”.

“In politics there are no permanent friends, no permanent interests, and no permanent enemy’s just permanent interests,” Abdullah told Karan Thapar in an interview for The Wire.

Back home, another senior NC leader Agha Ruhullah is also giving tough times to the party leadership over their soft stance on the abrogation of Article 370.

Ruhullah, a former cabinet minister of J-K and three-time legislator from Budgam, has openly criticized the party for taking part in the District Development Council (DDC) elections.

“Our priority should not be to contest polls but to get back what has been snatched from us on 5 August, 2019,” he had said.

The influential Shia leader also expressed his displeasure over the all party meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year.

In July, when NC decided to be a part of the delimitation commission, Ruhullah, rather endorsing the party’s decision, praised the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for staying away from the proceedings, saying “it is never too late to stand for your rights”.

Though Ruhullah has stepped down as party’s chief spokesperson, he has not quit the party yet.

With the exit of prominent leaders and internal bickering into the party fold, many political pundits have raised questions about NC losing ground in Jammu and Kashmir.

Prominent political analyst Noor Ahmad Baba said that there are mainly two factors responsible for the NC’s decline on the ground.

“First and foremost is the failure of the NC leadership. I believe that they have failed to deliver and meet the expectation of the party members,” he said.

Baba said that the second factor is the change in the political dynamics in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370.

“Post August 5, 2019 many political parties were brought into the scene and were postured as an alternative against the dynastic politics in the valley,” Baba said. “That is why people are switching sides lately.”

Baba said to keep its flock intact, NC leadership has to show its presence on the ground and assure people that the party is working for the welfare and representing the aspiration of the common masses.

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