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“The Kashmiris have developed a taste for democracy”

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The NC has nurtured the concept of secularism and made good contribution to it in the State

Saifuddin Soz wears many hats. Besides being a Union Minister, he is Jammu and Kashmir’s Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief and member of the Congress Working Committee. He was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha. He is busy campaigning for the Congress and its coalition partner, the National Conference. While the Congress is fighting two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and one in Ladakh, the three in the Valley have been left to the NC. Prof. Soz was by the side of NC president Farooq Abdullah when he filed his nomination papers for the prestigious Srinagar seat. Talking to SHUJAAT BUKHARI, Prof. Soz underlines the issues the Congress is raising in the State.

Will the alliance with the NC help you in the election?

It will help a great deal. [The election in ] Jammu has gone well. The NC has nurtured the concept of secularism and made good contribution to it in the State.

We must not do anything at the cost of other party but since both Congress and NC have strong secular ideals, it is going to be a fruitful alliance.

Won’t the fact that the Congress and NC were pitted against each other in the Assembly election affect the way the understanding works?

Politics flows like water. You have to accept it as an art of possible. The PDP could not remain with us and withdrew support to our government. The issues we are facing now are common. We have a manifesto of our own. We made promises in 2002 in Jammu and Kashmir and we achieved them. We are on way to fulfill the rest. We are for political and social development of the State.

Why was Ladakh a bone of contention?

The NC wanted to fight there. But we too laid our claim. We have not given much representation to the region in the legislature. We want to do something in Ladakh and we won the Leh seat in a tough contest. It is an assertion to do something for the region.

How are you going to fight the BJP in Jammu and PDP in Kashmir ?

The Congress is a cohesive force present in all the three regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. It was a great battle in the Assembly election. We alone can guarantee unity of the State as we don’t have sectarian, communal or regional agenda.

The NC is de-linking the Kashmir issue from the election. How do you see it?

It is not de-linked. The Congress stand is that it can be resolved through dialogue. And in a democracy, elections are an important way of putting forth ones point of view. We are ready for dialogue and it should take place.

How do you see Sajjad Lone’s entry into electoral politics?

I welcome it. It is a gainful addition. He has to accept the Indian constitution. And cannot go against it.

How do you see the turnout this time?

They [separatists] want a boycott. They called for it and are creating a fear psychosis. Law enforcing agencies will take their own course. But one thing is certain. Kashmiris have developed taste for democracy. May be the percentage will be lower than what we saw in the Assembly election.

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