Ahead of Aug 5 anniversary, speculations rife over future

Zafar Choudhary. Updated: 7/27/2020 10:52:21 AM Front Page

Lieutenant Governor hints elections, even before delimitation

JAMMU: Ten days ahead of first anniversary of withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and downgrade to Union Territory, speculations are rife about the political future of the erstwhile state and the nature of politics as it unfolds.

In an exceptionally political interview, Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu has hinted at the possibility of elections later this year, even before the delimitation exercise is complete. In another development, National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah confirmed Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was earlier exclusively reported by this newspaper.

"Farooq Abdullah confirms Azad met PM, raised five demands

Omar Abdullah says will not contest elections in Union Territory"

Farooq Abdullah, in his first interview ever since August 5, 2019, asked for restoration of statehood even as he didn’t rule out participation in elections while Jammu and Kashmir still remained a Union Territory. However, later by evening Dr Abdullah, in yet another interview changed his stance while Omar Abdullah declared that he was never going to contest an election in the Union Territory.

When asked about the political process, the Lieutenant Governor presented Panchayats as institutions but hastened to admit difficulties. He said, “we had tried to create a structure, but we had this setback…We have already chalked out a plan to create a separate cadre for the Panchayats… That is half done”. The Second part is, the L-G said,“the delimitation committee is already appointed, now delimitation will start. The Assembly elections should also come simultaneously or after that. So this parallel work is going on. I think this vacuum is temporary”.

Even as the Reorganisation Act suggests elections after the delimitation exercise but the Lieutenant Governor hinted at earlier possibility. He said, “the Election Commission has to take a decision, whether they will do it as per earlier delimitation, or they will work as per the new delimitation. I hope that by the turn of this year, some kind of process will start”.

Hours after Lieutenant Governor’s interview to a national newspaper triggered discussions in the political circles, the National Conference leader Dr Farooq Abdullah asked for restoration of the statehood even as he didn’t rule out participation in election in the Union Territory.

When asked if his party would participate in elections to the Assembly, Dr Abdullah said"when the situation comes, we will sit together and see what is happening." This is in sharp contrast to the National Conference stand in early 1990s when the party refused to participate in elections without categorical assurance from the Centre on restoration of pre-1953 political status to Jammu and Kashmir.

"As a political party it is but natural that we will keep the people informed about what we are doing to get justice. We are very clear that we do not accept the changes forced on us and will continue to oppose them," Dr Abdullah said in the interview. He further added, “we will fight for our rights, campaign for our rights within democratic means. We have never used guns, we have never used methods which are not constitutional. We are a democratic mainstream party and will use all democratic means at our disposal."

"There is a loss of trust and Delhi has to rebuild the trust. That trust will come only when the statehood is restored and other changes are reversed. That has to be done," Dr Abdullah said.

"What happened is unfortunate. They (Centre) said J and K will progress once this thing (Article 370) is removed, militancy will disappear. I would like to ask those people, has militancy disappeared? It has increased rather than decreased. Any development? Zero development. Whatever we had we have lost even that," he said.

In yet another interview later in the day, Dr Abdullah confirmed Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi which this newspaper had exclusively reported in its Saturday edition. “Azad called me after his meeting with the Prime Minister and told me that he presented before him (PM) a five-point approach for Jammu and Kashmir”.

In a matter of few hours, Dr Abdullah reverted to the Gupkar declaration and said that his party was committed to what was decided in the evening of August 4, 2019. The evening before Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was withdrawn, all regional political parties had declared that they will not accept any change in the political and constitutional status of the state.

In a related development, Dr Abdullah’s son, his party’s working president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that he will not contest any election as long as Jammu and Kashmir is a Union Territory. In first write-up since August 5, 2019, Omar’s political views are contained in an article he wrote for a national newspaper that is to appear tomorrow. However, a highlight of the article, as shared by Omar Abdullah, said, “While Jammu and Kashmir remains a Union Territory, I will not contest Assembly elections”.

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