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Stripped of Say and Sway, Kashmir’s Pro-India Parties Caught Up in the Chaos
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Stripped of Say and Sway, Kashmir’s Pro-India Parties Caught Up in the Chaos

The political parties are still not clear whether to contest elections without seeking restoration of special status and statehood.

SRINAGAR — When the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi met various political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir including former chief ministers and parliamentarians, in June this year, one of the issues discussed was to strengthen the political process in the erstwhile state.

A few months before the meeting, District Development Council polls were held in Jammu and Kashmir, for the first time, after the abrogation of the erstwhile state’s special status.

The J&K administration, run by a New Delhi nominated Lt. Governor had amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act in October 2020, in a bid to provide for setting up of District Development Councils in each district, which will have directly elected members, marking the implementation of the entire 73rd Constitutional Amendment in the erstwhile state.

The campaigning for the election was riddled with accusations of bipartisanship, and politicking over various topics, including the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state into the Indian union.

After expressing doubts about the polls, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), which was created to seek the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, contested the election together.

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Although both National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leaders had criticised the move, both parties participated in the elections.

Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar had claimed the move would spell the end of politics in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is to cut to size the people of Jammu and Kashmir so that they don’t have a political voice. The aim is to subdivide, overlap, create layer after layer so that nobody would know who is in charge,” Akhtar had told a national newspaper. But the party president Mehbooba Mufti said that by participating in the elections, the local parties will keep the ‘divisive forces’ at bay.

A senior member of the National Conference, Nasir Aslam Sogami, had also criticised the decision and said that it would have far-reaching consequences, especially in reducing the role of MLAs.

Recently, LG Manoj Sinha, as quoted by the Times of India, said that polls in J&K will be held after delimitation. Six months after the abrogation of special status, a delimitation commission was set up. Headed by Justice (retired) Ranjana Desai, the delimitation commission was given an extension of one year in March. This set the rumour mills churning.

National Conference party patron Dr Farooq Abdullah, recently speaking at the death anniversary of his father Sheikh Abdullah, said his party will take part in elections whenever they are held in Jammu and Kashmir. He even regretted not taking part in the panchayat and block development council polls that the NC had boycotted along with PDP.

NC party patron Dr Farooq Abdullah. / Photo Courtesy: Kashmir Reader

However, Omar Abdullah, the party’s working president after being released from the ‘detention’ in March 2020 said that he will not contest assembly elections till the time J&K remains a Union Territory. NC leader, in an opinion piece for a national daily, had written that having been a member of the “most empowered Assembly” in the land and that, too, as the leader of that Assembly for six years, he simply cannot and will not be a member of a House that has been disempowered the way Jammu and Kashmir assembly was.

“Our position hasn’t changed since August 5, 2019,” National Conference’s additional spokesperson, Ifra Jan said.

Jan said, even when other parties made compromising statements regarding the statehood for getting elected, “we stood our ground”. This election process is a smokescreen to plant new faces that would do the bidding of New Delhi, she said.

Many political leaders that the Mountain Ink spoke to, said that New Delhi has taken enough time to hold elections to create proxy players. “The new players have no legitimacy on the ground.”



Jan said that the National Conference will not budge and will be the last line of defence for Kashmir against the atrocities committed by New Delhi. “Everyone will capitalize on the statehood card in the coming elections but only NC has stood steadfast for restoring the statehood.”

The People’s Conference (PC) has delinked the elections and the restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status including statehood.

In June, this year, addressing a press conference, party chief Sajjad Lone said that restoration of statehood should not be linked with the conduct of elections and that boycotting elections has never yielded any results. Lone also participated in the all-party meeting called by PM Modi.

Earlier, Lone had cast doubt on the electoral process in J&K and had said New Delhi has created new stakeholders. “It has muddied this place even more than it was and that now bureaucracy was the new stakeholder.”

People’s Conference party chief Sajjad Lone. / Photo Courtesy: PTI

Adnan Ashraf Mir, a spokesperson of PC said that the party is always ready to participate in the elections. “Elections should not be held hostage to any demands. Restoration of statehood is a promise made by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of India to the people of India from the floor of the Indian Parliament.”

Mir said the election has no implications for the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. A vote is purely a developmental tool, he said.

The People’s Conference believes that the restoration of statehood and special status is an issue to be fought in the Supreme Court of India and the Indian Parliament.

“We have alienated the people of India by our rhetoric over the last few decades and the result is the celebration across India on the abrogation of Article 370,” the party said.

When the rumours about the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status began to take roots in March 2019, Mehbooba Mufti, whose party was an ally with the BJP till June 2018 had warned the Centre that the Indian constitution will not be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir if Article 370 and 35A were abrogated. Mufti was put under house arrest immediately after the August 5, 2019 move. Although the claims of not participating in the electoral process continue to be reiterated by the PDP, the party at the same time believes that the restoration of the rights of the people need a local assembly and for that a democratically elected local representation is necessary.

“This issue is not merely a political slogan and I will not contest any election till 35A and 370 are restored,” Mufti had said after attending the all-party meeting with PM Modi.

Mufti, however, quickly added that her party PDP might consider contesting the Assembly elections as and when they are announced.

People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti. / Photo Courtesy: NewsClick

Post August 5, 2019, there has been a relentless process of taking away the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir “which they are seeking within the Ambit of the Constitution of India”, PDP spokesperson Najm-us-Saqib said.

“The electoral process is an integral part of democracy,” he said, “We cannot play the boycott politics game if we have to clean the crooks out of the democratic process. Our party has reached out to people across Jammu and Kashmir and there is huge anger and mistrust in people for New Delhi.”

Saqib said that the elections are not just about the development but a larger question of Kashmir’s identity. “We aren’t only talking about article 370. We are talking about self-rule.”

The newly floated Apni Party (AP) has been repeatedly demanding the restoration of statehood but, like the People’s Conference, it believes that the Assembly elections should be held without preconditions.

Apni Party patron Altaf Bukhari. / Photo Courtesy: AP

“We want statehood to be restored soon as it is our identity. However, it is also important that the elections should also take place soon,” AP’s leader Altaf Bukhari was quoted as having said.

“Our party wants the reinstatement of Democratic institutions in Jammu and Kashmir. Even if the statehood is not restored before the elections are held, it should not hamper the democratic process,” the state secretary of the party, Muntazir Mohiuddin said.

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