Days after the high-stakes all-party meeting between the Central Government and leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah demanded the restoration of UT’s statehood before elections.
Why is this relevant?
Because full statehood of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the few points where the Centre and the politicians from Valley are most likely to reach common ground. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised restoration of statehood at the time when the state was stripped of its special status.
However, that alone is not sufficient to break the deadlock. The Kashmiri parties, including Omar’s NC, are insistent on the restoration of statehood before polls are held, whereas the Modi government has indicated it would like to hold out on this ‘until a more opportune time’.
Omar told ANI that all political parties of the region had conveyed to Modi that elections should be held in Jammu and Kashmir only after the restoration of its statehood.
Not only Omar, but after Thursday’s three-hour long meeting between Jammu and Kashmir leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, almost all opposition parties had demanded complete statehood first, otherwise they won’t fight elections.
“Azad sa’ab (Ghulam Nabi Azad) had spoken on behalf of all of us that we don’t accept this timeline ” we don’t accept delimitation, election, statehood, we want delimitation, statehood and then the election. If you want to hold polls, you’ll have to restore statehood first,” ANI quoted Omar as saying.
What else did Omar say?
All Jammu and Kashmir parties want restoration of statehood before polls: Omar told ANI that the restoration of statehood before polls is a demand of all the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and not just that of the Natioanl Conference.
“Not only Mehbooba Mufti but Farooq (Abdullah) sahab also said that it took 70 years for BJP to succeed in their agenda of abrogation of Article 370. We won’t back off from our mission, even if it takes us 70 weeks or 70 months or more time,” Omar said.
National Conference’s stand on delimitation hasn’t changed: The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister also clarified on Saturday that his parties stand on the Delimitation Commission hasn’t changed.
“As far as Delimitation Commission is concerned, the party has made it very clear – they have authorised Doctor sahab (Farooq Abdullah) to take a view as and when necessary. There has been no fresh approach to the National Conference from the Delimitation Commission,” he said.
Invited to Modi’s all-party meet as a party, not alliance: The National Conference leader also clarified that the members of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration were not called at the meeting as an alliance, but as individual representatives of their parties. He said he did not say anything that’s outside of PAGD’s agenda, and that his party would have respected the decision to send a common representative, had the invitation been extended to PAGD as a single grouping.
“We were not called there (at prime minister’s all-party meet) as an alliance. Had that been the case, only one person from the alliance would have been invited. We did not say anything at the meet that is outside the agenda of the Gupkar Alliance,” said the National Conference vice president.
What did Farooq Abdullah say?
While addressing the joint press conference the National Conference chief >Farooq Abdullah said that meeting with Modi was good and all parties have put their state of affairs in front of him.
“Meeting with Modi was good. Parties have put their state of affairs in front of him. It was the first step from his side that how can we build better circumstances in Jammu and Kashmir and start a political process,” said Farooq Abdullah.
Speaking to reporters upon his return to Srinagar, Farooq said he would hold discussions with his party leaders and PAGD constituents before making any further statement on the meeting.
He said the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had promised a plebiscite to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but he went back on his word. He also said that before the 1996 elections, the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao had promised autonomy from the floor of the house.
“Narasimha Raoji before elections promised us autonomy and said sky is the limit, but not independence. We said we never asked (for) independence, we have asked for autonomy. He promised us from the floor of the house. Where is that?” Farooq asked.
“There is a level of mistrust….We should wait and see what they (the Centre) do… Whether they will remove the mistrust or let it continue,” he added. The former CM said even senior Congress leader Karan Singh has called for the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir before holding elections.
What was the all-party meet about?
Prime Minister Modi chaired the all-party meeting which was attended by 14 prominent leaders from the Union Territory.
This was the first high-level interaction between the Centre and political leadership mainly from Kashmir since 5 August, 2019, when the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the state was bifurcated into two union territories.
Earlier in March this year, the Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir, which was set up in March 2020 to redraw the parliamentary and assemblies constituencies, got a one-year extension from the Central government.
As Firstpost had reported earlier, during the all-party meet, the prime minister had focussed on elections and Jammu and Kashmir getting its own elected government.
The Central Government had clearly stated that it wants the delimitation exercise and elections to be held before the restoration of J&K’s statehood.
Modi had said that the Centre is fully committed to the democratic process and stressed that holding Assembly elections, just like the successful conduct of DDC elections, is a priority for his government.
“Our democracy’s biggest strength is the ability to sit across a table and exchange views,” Modi had tweeted.
“I told the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir that it is the people, especially the youth who have to provide political leadership to Jammu and Kashmir and ensure their aspirations are duly fulfilled.”
The completion of the delimitation exercise before the restoration of J&K’ statehood was highlighted by Shah after the all-party meet. “…the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in the Parliament,” Shah had tweeted after the meeting.
What’s next: Going forward, it’s not clear who will concede ground. But with Omar Abdullah’s statement, at least for now, the agenda of Kashmir’s political mainstream is clear.
With inputs from agencies