Wednesday, May 31, 2023

J&K National Conference Chief Farooq Abdullah Returns To Fore, To Lead All-Party Delegation To Delhi

J&K National Conference Chief Farooq Abdullah Returns To Fore, To Lead All-Party Delegation To Delhi

After chairing a meeting of all parties in Jammu and Kashmir except for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), J&K National Conference chief Dr Farooq Abdullah said assembly elections and restoration of statehood will be on the agenda on the visit to Delhi. Criticising the Union Territory’s administration, he also said that only an elected assembly should impose taxes as MLAs and not bureaucrats and answerable to people.

The National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah
The National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah PTI

Amid rising political heat in Jammu with protests and strikes, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC) President Dr Farooq Abdullah chaired an all-party meeting on Saturday and announced he would lead an all-party delegation to Delhi. 

The Saturday’s meeting holds significance as all parties in the erstwhile state attended it except for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

In the meeting, Abdullah described the situation in J&K as grim and said the delegation of leaders of all political parties would visit Delhi and take up issues of J&K with the national leaders and the Election Commission of India (ECI). 

He said to reporters, “They don’t know what is happening in J&K. We will apprise them about the situation. We want restoration of the statehood. We want elections to be held in Jammu and Kashmir. We are not concerned whether the J&K Governor has advisors or not.

“We don’t want truncated statehood.  We want a powerful statehood. First time in the history of this nation, a proud state has been reduced to a Union Territory. This is the tragedy of this nation. We want statehood to be restored. 

“Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the nation. It is not a separate part. Why are they trying to do something to us when we belong to the nation? We are not traitors. We have been part of this nation. We want the state to progress.”

Abdullah described J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s administration as a temporary government and “government by Delhi”. 

He said, “We hear taxes are being imposed from every side. We hear the electricity fee will be doubled. What is this? This is a temporary government. This is not the people’s government. This is the government by Delhi. People's Government is the assembly where the members decide what is wrong and what is right. They face people again. Does the LG have to face the people? Do these officers face people? It is the member of the assembly who has to face people. That is why we say restore the assembly. Let people decide whether tax has to be put or not.”

“There is a strange situation in Jammu and Kashmir. They pass a law in the night and the next morning they implement,” said Abdullah with Congress J&K President Vikar Rasool Wani, former state minister Harsh Dev Singh, CPIM leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, and others sitting with him.

He further said, “We have decided to visit Delhi to meet national leaders. We will discuss issues of Jammu and Kashmir with national leaders. We will ask them to restore the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and elections should be held in Jammu and Kashmir. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have been saying that there is peace in Jammu and Kashmir. The G20 meeting is also taking place here in May. If that is the situation, why elections won’t happen here?”

Abdullah said they would meet the officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI). 

He said, “We will also invite national leaders to join us in our meeting with the Election Commission. Normally, the polls should be held within six months of the dissolution of the Assembly. That is what the Supreme Court guidelines say. Now nearly four years have passed since the dissolution of the J&K Assembly. It is a strange situation. We are a democratic country.” 

Abdullah said all political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have a consensus over these issues.

Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected legislative assembly 2018 and elections were last held there in 2014 — almost nine years ago. 

Assembly elections were last held in J&K in November-December 2014 and the People's Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government formed government in March 2015. The BJP walked out of the coalition in 2018 and the government was dissolved. Then the Article 370 of Constitution was scrapped in 2019 which gave J&K special status. Elections have therefore been due in J&K for over three years now. 

Abdullah said the government has failed to provide jobs and instead it has resorted to “bulldozer politics”, imposing property tax, and hiring a “blacklisted company” for conducting exams. 

While talking about the strike call against the government’s decision to impose property tax and students protesting against the Service Selection Board for hiring a “blacklisted company for conducting exams”, Abdullah said these are indications of the worsening situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu observed a strike on March 11 on the call of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCI), Jammu, against the imposition of property tax from April this year. The strike affected normal life as markets were closed in several parts of Jammu city. 

In Jammu, hundreds of students are protesting against the Service Selection Board for hiring what they allege to be “a blacklisted company to conduct recruitment exam”. Abdullah said only an elected assembly has the right to impose the property tax or any other kind of tax.