J&K talks National

Narendra Modi to meet J&K leaders on June 24

Member of Parliament and President of National Conference (NC) Farooq Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti along with other members during a joint press conference of People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration in Srinagar, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will head the talks on Thursday with representatives of mainstream political parties from Jammu and Kashmir, which will be an attempt, many in the government say, to settle a “political equilibrium” with regard to the Union Territory (UT). This comes 22 months after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, removing the special status of J&K and splitting the erstwhile State into two Union Territories.

Talks will be held at Prime Minister Modi’s official residence, 7, Lok Kalyan Marg with Home Minister Amit Shah in attendance.

The government is clear that there is no going back on the removal of Article 370, and while statehood can be discussed, the main agenda for the government will be seeking cooperation from the political parties on the delimitation exercise underway for the Assembly seats.

Parties that make up the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) such as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC), however, will stick to their position of seeking the restoration of Article 370, and the immediate restoration of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir, with the Congress and National Panthers Party pushing for restoration of full statehood.

The passage of the Reorganisation Act was opposed tooth and nail by the mainstream Kashmir parties, with many leaders being immediately taken into custody and released months later in a staggered manner. Many of these parties, such as the PDP and the NC, as well as the CPI(M), formed the PAGD, which stood for talks with all stakeholders and refused to fight Assembly polls till their demands were met.

DDC polls

The government on its part remained adamant on the course it set for itself and managed to hold the District Development Council (DDC) polls in the interim, where the Gupkar alliance parties did quite well.

The Gupkar alliance contesting the polls and their good performance were a signal to both the government and the parties that talks had to take place if the political limbo had to be resolved in any manner.

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“The participation of political parties in the DDC polls after having declared that they wouldn’t contest Assembly polls was a recognition that leaving a political vacuum by not contesting polls was detrimental to their political support base, while the government, failing in its attempt to prop up parties like the Altaf Bukhari led Apni Party, had to recognise that the mainstream political parties still had legitimacy among the people,” said a senior government source.

Talks have been called to streamline the process of delimitation in J&K and seek political validation to this exercise, sources in the government say. An earlier meeting held by the delimitation commission in February saw three out of its five associate members, including NC leader Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone, refusing to attend.

The Prime Minister is likely to urge political leaders to participate in the delimitation exercise so that it can be done via consensus.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:39:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-headed-talks-a-bid-to-settle-political-equilibrium-in-jk/article34928472.ece

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