SRI NAGAR: Blood is thicker than water. In poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir, the political thaw changes the equation as quickly as a drop in mercury. The Assembly election is thickening the divide between family members locked in a contest as they campaign and strategise to turn the tables against each other in the state that’s going into the third phase of voting on December 8. At least four political families in Jammu and Kashmir are facing a loyalty test in the poll. They are united by blood but separated by party lines.
Senior Congress leader Dr Karan Singh, the royal patriarch in the state’s political corridors, will see his sons fighting it out against each other with the support they enjoy. Elder son, Vikramaditya Singh, who runs hotel business in Himachal Pradesh, joined opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and is now the party’s face in Jammu. He wields a considerably good influence among Rajputs and other communities in Jammu and his campaigns could be crucial for the PDP in some seats in the winter capital.
Karan Singh’s younger son Ajat Shatru Singh joined the saffron party BJP. He was an National Conference MLC and minister in Farooq Abdullah government in 1996.
One of the sons of the erstwhile royal family is likely to be part of the government as either of the two parties PDP or BJP is expected to form the next government in the state.
Different ideologies and differences in opinions widen the wedge between senior state BJP leader and MoS PMO Dr Jitendra Singh and his younger brother Devender Singh Rana, who is the NC’s provincial president for Jammu and party candidate from Nagrota.
Jitendra Singh was elected as MP from Doda-Udhampur seat and defeated Congress heavyweight Ghulam Nabi Azad. He is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi while Devender Rana is a businessman and close associate of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
The two brothers have different views on Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir. While Jitendra favours abrogation of Article 370, Devender has been opposing it saying the law cannot be scrapped and is link between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
State Congress’s veteran leader and former Deputy chief minister of the state Mangat Ram Sharma shifted loyalty from Congress to PDP. He, along with his elder son Subash Sharma, joined PDP on October 27. His quitting Congress is a jolt for the party and shot in the arm for PDP as he had a strong support base in Jammu.
Subash Sharma will be contesting from Kathua Assembly seat. Surprisingly, his younger brother Rajnish Sharma has been fielded by Congress from Bani Assembly seat in Jammu.
In Kashmir, politics has frozen the ties between the senior Abdullah siblings. The sister of NC president and former CM Farooq Abdullah, Begum Khalida Shah will be fielding candidates of her party Awami National Conference (ANC) against her brother’s party.
Khalida’s husband, G M Shah, had floated ANC after defecting from NC with 12 legislators in 1984 and toppling Farooq Abdullah’s government. He had been chief minister of the state from July 2, 1984, to March 6, 1986.
The two families have an estranged relationship and Khalida had even contested against Farooq in parliamentary elections from the Srinagar-Budgam seat.