Kavita Suri

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"Politics of consensus" over Rajya Sabha elections in J&K

For a couple of days, while the entire media remained focussed on Utter Pradesh where hectic political activity was witnessed just before the election of ten candidates to the Rajya Sabha, contrary to the expectations of J&K watchers who expected an interesting battle among the top politicians including the former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah for the elections to four Rajya Sabha seats from the state, in a surprise move, all the major political parties evolved a consensus over the elections. Resulting this, four candidates – Dr Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Prof Saifuddin Soz( Congress), PCC chief Ghulam Nabi Azad  and Sardar Trilok Singh Bajwa (PDP) made a smooth sailing to the Upper House unopposed.

The elections in the state were necessitated with the expiry of the term of Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mirza Abdul Rashid ,Sharif-ud-din Shariq and Kushok Thiskey.

Among the four entrants to the Upper House, Dr Abdullah has been elected to the Parliament for the first time. Early this year, his name was also doing rounds for the posts of President and Vice-President of the country, however, he could not made it to both these prestigious posts. While Farooq is a first-timer to the Upper House, Ghulam Nabi Azad has been elected for the third time to this House.In the three Rajya Sabha elections, he won once from Maharashtra and twice from J&K.

Prof Saifuddin Soz has been elected for the second time. Earlier, he was elected to the Upper House of the Parliament in 1996. Bajwa, a farmer leader who once contested Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully, is also a first timer.

While the consensus-move has caught the political watchers unawares in the state, it is also broadly being seen as a deliberate step to ensure the exit of National Conference patron, Dr Farooq Abdullah who is undoubtedly one of the most seasoned politicians of the country, from the state politics. 

"All of these political parties wanted Farooq Abdullah to move to Centre so that the reigns of the party remained in the hands of lesser shrewd politician and his son Omar Abdullah. The party faced debacle under his leadership only," said a political observer adding that Farooq’s shift to Centre meant that he  would leave behind a beleaguered National Conference which witnessed a worst ever debacle in the 70-year old history of the oldest political party of the state.

"Their interest also remained in the fact that Omar, who till now, has not able to handle party affairs well, would become weak in the absence of his charismatic and 'vote-catcher' father. This would ultimately result to the further weakening of the party which would be to the advantage of both Congress and the PDP," he added.

Besides, Peoples Democratic Party’s last minute decision to nominate Sikh leader Trilok Singh Bajwa as its candidates also stems from the fact that the name of the original choice of the party, seasoned journalist Ved Bhasin who is a close friend of Mufti Sayeed, was rejected by Congress president Ms Sonia Gandhi on the grounds that he was already in the independent elections commission floated by the separatist conglomerate All Party Hurriyat Conference. Last time change in party’s decision, brought Bajwa, a lesser known leader who just got a couple of thousand votes from R.S,Pura assembly constituency in recent polls, saw him getting elected the Rajya Sabha.

"Besides, after the rejection of Ved Bhasin’s name for the RS seat,Mufti wanted to show Jammu people who are annoyed with him, that he too would give representation to them,"feel analysts adding the first step in this direction was to give representation to Jammu’s Sikh community.

Still, though, the biggest surprise in these Rajya Sabha elections from Jammu and Kashmir remained in the fact that all the three main political parties – the Congress, PDP and National Conference evolved a consensus on the polls.Afterall, the parties who were daggers drawn in recent assembly polls,how they get together for these four seats?

Prof Bhim Singh, President Panthers Party, (who himself was also in the fray till last minute),made a joint statement on behalf of all the political parties informing that as all the parties believed that they had to play a "positive role" in the state politics, they decided to stand united in these Rajya Sabha elections for the broader interest.

"Obviously, some stand up and some down in the elections but we reached a consensus without any argument and dissent and ultimately decided that we would send these four persons to Rajbya Sabha without any contest,"he said.

However, this move surprised everybody despite the fact that the state Congress chief Ghulam Nabi Azad had earlier dropped enough hints that his party would not be a stumbling block in Dr Farooq Abdullah's sailing to Rajya Sabha. Political pundits feel that it was mainly PCC president, who had made it to Rajya Sabha six years ago only because of National Conference support, balanced the act by helping National Conference patron having made it to the Upper body of the parliament.

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