In a major jolt to ruling National Conference (NC) ahead of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, veteran leader and former Lok Sabha MP Mehboob Beg quit the party and extended unconditional support to his PDP rival Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Mr. Beg, son of National Conference stalwart Mirza Afzal Beg, announced his decision at a workers meet at his residence at Sarnal in Anantnag district.
He also turned down the NC mandate given to him to contest the elections from Anantnag assembly segment, which is going to polls in the fourth phase of elections on December 14.
“I extend unconditional support to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (PDP candidate from Anantnag) as he is the only person who can halt the BJP’s march in Kashmir,” Mr. Beg said.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted saying Mr. Beg’s decision was expected.
Mr. Beg, however, said he will not be joining the PDP. Giving reasons for his quitting the ruling party, Mr. Beg said he was never taken into confidence by the party leadership and his suggestions on organisational matters and development works in Anantnag were ignored.
Lashing out at National Conference ministers in the state government, Mr. Beg, who was a state health minister in Farooq Abdullah-led Government, alleged that they were worried only about their own constituencies.
“One minister would look after development of constituency of another minister and vice versa. Since Anantnag had no minister, it got neglected in terms of development,” he said.
“When recruitment took place in the (JK) Bank, people from Chrar-e-Sharief (constituency of Finance Minister A R Rather) were employed. Posts under NREGA, which have to be filled locally from rural areas, were given to people from Khanyar (constituency of Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar),” he alleged.
Mr. Beg said whichever government comes to power after elections in the state should set up an inquiry commission to probe these wrongdoings.
Although several senior leaders of National Conference have quit the party recently, Mr Beg is the most high profile leader to have walked away.