Srinagar: The Congress was a partner in Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling coalitions for 12 years in past two decades. But it is slowly being pushed to the margins of J&K’s politics as it failed to get a single post of the chairperson in the District Development Council (DDC) elections, which was the first major electoral exercise in J&K after the Centre read down Article 370 and reorganised the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.
In the elections held for DDC chairpersons earlier this month, the Congress did not field its candidate anywhere for the post of chairperson due to lack of numbers, but it managed to get its nominees elected as vice-chairpersons in Rajouri and Kishtwar districts with the support of National Conference and independents.
The performance of Congress was not even at par with Peoples Conference and Communist Party of India (Marxist), which have never won more than two seats in J&K polls. The PC and CPI (M) respectively won DDC chairperson polls in Kupwara and Kulgam districts. PC-backed independent candidate Safeena Baig heads DDC Baramulla, giving the party control of two DDCs in the politically-significant north Kashmir.
The performance of Congress in the DDC polls raises questions on its leadership, as it has remained in power for 12 years here since 2002.
The party was part of the state government from 2002 to 2008 both as junior and senior partner when Mufti Muhammad Sayeed (2002-2005) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (2005-2008) helmed J&K.
From 2009 to 2014, Congress was part of power-sharing with National Conference when Omar Abdullah was Chief Minister of the erstwhile state.
Its downfall started from 2014 Assembly polls when its managed to get only 12 seats against 17 seats in 2008 and 20 seats in 2002.
The party was relegated to 5th position in the DDC polls held in November- December last year as it managed to get only 26 seats.
In the polls, BJP secured 75 seats, followed by National Conference (67 seats), Independents (50), Peoples Democratic Party (27), Apni Party( 12) and Peoples Conference(8).
According to observers, the Congress party is losing ground in Jammu & Kashmir due to leadership vacuum.
“The party is on the verge of being politically extinct due to absence of any charismatic leader like Ghulam Nabi Azad,” they said, adding that absence of a coherent campaign was the key reason for its debacle in the DDC polls.
According to the observers, the biggest worry for the party is that it is losing ground in mainland Jammu.
“The biggest worry for the party is that it doesn’t have any influential leader who can take on BJP in mainland Jammu. It couldn’t reap dividends of anti-incumbency in Jammu mainland against BJP which faced public ire over the restrictions on internet. The party needs to introspect over its failures before the Assembly polls,” they said.
Repeated attempts to get version of PCC President Ghulam Ahmad Mir proved futile as he did not pick up calls from this reporter.
It is worthwhile to mention that three Congress MLAs in last Assembly deserted the party after abrogation of Article 370.
Usman Majid (former minister), Aijaz Ahmad Khan (former minister) and Mumtaz Khan (ex-ML) quit the party to join Apni Party.