The Congress and the National Conference on Monday announced its seat-sharing arrangement for Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh for the Lok Sabha elections.

Both parties are constituents of the INDIA bloc, which is a coalition of Opposition parties taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said that his party will contest from all three Lok Sabha constituencies in the Kashmir region: Anantnag-Rajouri, Srinagar and Baramulla.

The Congress will be fielding its candidates from the two seats in the Jammu region – Udhampur and Jammu – as well as the lone seat in Ladakh.

The development comes a day after the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, which is also part of the INDIA bloc, announced its candidates for all three parliamentary seats in Kashmir. Party chief Mehbooba Mufti is contesting from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

Mufti also declared her party’s “unconditional support” to the Congress and said that it would not contest in Jammu, The Hindu reported.

On Wednesday, Mufti said that the National Conference had left it with no choice but to field its candidates from the Kashmir Valley. The Peoples Democratic Party could have decided to not field its candidates in the larger interests of Kashmir if the National Conference had approached it before announcing its candidates, she said.

Abdullah had announced on April 1 that veteran leader Mian Altaf Ahmed would contest the polls from the Anantnag-Rajouri seat.

Mufti had won the Anantnag seat in the 2014 general election, but lost to the National Conference candidate in 2019. Her father and late Peoples Democratic Party founder, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, has also represented the seat.

The Peoples Democratic Party had earlier expressed its desire to contest the polls in alliance with the National Conference if it was given the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

Commenting on Mufti’s exclusion from the seat-sharing agreement, Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Monday said that the Peoples Democratic Party is still part of the INDIA bloc. “Seat adjustment is one part of the alliance,” the Congress leader said. “The overall INDIA alliance is a different issue.”

Khurshid added that Jammu and Kashmir “being a small area had not much scope for seat adjustment despite our best efforts”.

Yet to decide on contesting polls, says Ghulam Nabi Azad

On Monday, former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has formed his own Democratic Progressive Azad Party, said that he is yet to decide on contesting the Lok Sabha elections, NDTV reported.

His party had earlier announced that he would be contesting the polls from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

“I’m yet to decide if I will contest or not,” Azad said. “My party has announced it but I have not taken a final call.”

Responding to Azad’s statement, Abdullah claimed that the former Congress leader had received “instructions” from the BJP. “His party announced and it is quite ingenious on trying to back out and say he hasn’t made up his mind,” the National Conference leader added.

The polling in Jammu and Kashmir will happen across the first five phases between April 19 and May 20. Ladakh will head for polls on May 20.

Also read: Democratic space being denied: Kashmiri politicians as poll panel skips Assembly elections in J&K