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With NC, PDP in choppy waters, J&K’s political climate uncertain

Back to normal: Vendors bringing animals for Id sacrifice in Jammu where ban orders have been lifted in most places.  

How the democratic process will evolve in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, after the State ceases to exist on October 31, is unclear.

While the BJP says it is gearing up for the Assembly election, workers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC) are left rudderless as their leaders remain under detention.

Political parties in the State are trying to make sense of the Centre’s decision on August 5 to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutionally guaranteed special status under Article 370 that gave it some form of autonomy.

In the wake of the announcement, the government snapped all communication channels in Kashmir, put political leaders, including former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Omar Abdullah of the NC, under detention and imposed restrictions on movement.

The Prime Minister has promised elections soon, at a time when there is anger against the Centre’s move in Kashmir and cautious celebrations in Jammu. The new Union Territory of Ladakh will not have a Legislative Assembly — while the decision has been welcomed in Leh district, there have been protests in Kargil.

Core promise

For the BJP, the fulfilling of one of its core promises — one that the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, had advocated — has been, and will be, the focus of its campaign. Part of its rationale for the revocation of J&K’s special status, the BJP says, is that the stakeholders in the State, the PDP and the NC, have failed the people over the past 70 years.

While BJP leaders say they are ready for election, PDP and NC leaders and workers here have had no communication from the leadership, leaving them waiting and watching. The Hindu spoke to political workers from both parties, all of whom expressed worry for what lay ahead. Many raised the possibility of separatists and “outsiders” trying to fill the vacuum left by mainstream politicians.

Ravinder Raina, president of the BJP’s J&K State unit, said the party had been reaching out to communities, particularly Gujjars and Bakarwals, to tell them about the advantages of removal of Articles 370 and 35A, including reservation for the Scheduled Tribes.

“As soon as the law and order situation improves, we are 100% ready [for elections],” he said. He said the people of the State had been “held hostage by the political system”, which, he said, would change now.

BJP J&K general secretary Yudhvir Sethi said the outreach had started months ago.

“I was in Baramulla a month-and-half ago to hold meetings. Our leaders have been reaching out to people in the Valley also. Our message is that we will be better representatives of the concerns of the Valley, better than Valley-based parties. We will bring good governance and equal development to Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Caught unawares

With NC chief and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah unavailable, party workers in Jammu said they were waiting to decide their response, but condemned the government’s decision.

“When you tie up a person’s hands and legs and gag his mouth and say now speak, how will it work? On the basis of majority, this is a constitutional coup,” said NC Jammu provincial secretary and former MLC Sheikh Bashir Ahmed.

He said Mr. Farooq Abdullah had advocated for a “secular India to the whole world. Now, what reply will he give?”

To understand the problem facing the State today, Mr. Ahmed said it was important to remember the past. He said the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Independent India was a conditional one, and one that was carried out by the ruler, Hari Singh, under pressure.

“Within the framework of the Constitution, we have to ask for our rights. The day this democracy ends, this India will not remain,” he said.

On their part, PDP leaders said they had lost contact with senior party leaders and were left in the dark for now.

“Article 370 gave us an identity and security. It was not only for the people of Kashmir Valley, it protected all of us. What has happened has broken people’s hearts. The government is trying to paint Mehboobaji as against India. How can people who contest elections and take an oath of the Constitution, not be nationalists,” asked PDP leader and former MLA candidate R.K. Bali.

Speaking about any future elections to the Assembly, Mr. Bali said the candidates would now “fight to be glorified corporators as the Assembly of a UT would be toothless”.

“They used to fight for azaadi, now they will fight for statehood,” Mr. Bali said, with a shrug.


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 5:56:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/with-nc-pdp-in-choppy-waters-jks-political-climate-uncertain/article28977669.ece

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