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At a crossroads



National Conference, which was considering itself a cadre-based party driven by the core ideology of its founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, is imploding.  Chinks have started appearing in the grand old party. This time Devender Singh Rana, a close aide of Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, is leading the jackknife brigade to engineer defections in the party. Last week, Rana, who was National Conference provincial president for Jammu, along with former minister Surjit Singh Salathia resigned from the party and joined BJP in Delhi. Rana was groomed by National Conference for the finance ministry. During the debate on finance bills in the Assembly, National Conference used to ask Rana to present the party’s point of view.  Niccolo Machiavelli once said politics have no relation to morals. It has come true for Kashmir in 2021. Rana, who once swore by NC’s ideology has become a chopper-in-chief trying to engineer defections. On October 11, the Provincial Secretary, two District Presidents, two Municipal Corporators, one Block President, and several district and block committee members of National Conference from District Jammu resigned from the party and conveyed their support to Devender Singh Rana. Members of the District Committee J&K National Conference, District Jammu Urban also tendered their resignations from their posts as also from the basic membership of the party. Block Committee members of J&K National Conference Block Jammu West have also tendered their resignations. All these resignations happened in just one day. On October 12, District President, four Block Presidents, two BDC Chairman, one former Chairman MC Bari Brahmana, from District Samba resigned from National Conference and conveyed their support to Surjit Singh Slathia. Power is glue and it binds people. Soon after PDP lost power, leaders started jumping the ship for greener pastures. The PDP leaders who were swearing by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed were the first to leave the party. In fact, the exodus continues even now. Mehbooba Mufti is the lone ranger in the party now. The same is happening with NC.  The party withstood pulls and pressure and did not split despite being out of power since 2014.  But now it is tasting the same bitter medicine which once PDP had to swallow.  Peoples Conference (PC) led by Sajad Lone is emerging as the biggest rival to National Conference. Playing son-of-soil card, he is trying to consolidate his position in north Kashmir. In the previous assembly, his party managed to win only Handwara and Kupwara seats. Sajad tried his luck in the parliament elections before, but he could not sail through. National Conference is facing a two-fold challenge How to stay united and how to counter the influence of Sajad Lone. The party though is trying to put up a brave face, yet the ground is slipping beneath its feet.