Leaders of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) met in Srinagar, earlier this month.
NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: There is a cautious reception to plans for Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir later this month amid expectations that the consultations may be the first step towards holding of assembly elections in the state.
At this point, regional parties including PDP, National Conference and People’s Conference are careful in assessing the implications of the initiative and highlight the centrality of their demands like restoration of statehood. Some parties want complete restoration of pre-August 5, 2019 status of J&K. At any rate the statehood demand is expected to be a key element of any election campaign.
Any discussion on elections is currently a future scenario as the delimitation commission must first submit its recommendations for new MLA and Lok Sabha constituencies.
The commission has sought inputs of district officials on any demographic and geographical inconsistencies in the delimitation process. Political parties had previously kept away and will now be given another chance to engage with the commission.
Political parties and leaders in J&K continue to debate whether “restoration” of statehood will mean full-state status or Centre will keep the UT’s home department (law & order) under its control. CPM and Apni Party were the first to come forward hailing the Centre’s decision.
In the two years after Article 370 was scrapped, alternatives to PDP, NC and Congress have gained some traction in Muslim-majority Kashmir, particularly after the recent panchayat polls. “People at the grassroots have tasted real power for the first time and now have a say in determining their own development agenda,” said Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari.
Sajjad Lone of People’s Conference and Yousuf Tarigami of CPM, also the convenor of Gupkar Alliance, confirmed they received calls for the PM’s meet in New Delhi at 3pm on June 24. Bukhari, Congress and CPM said the talks were an encouraging move to open up the stalled political discourse with the Centre.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said she got a call about the all-party meet on J&K next week. She said her party’s political affairs committee will deliberate on the issue on Sunday. Sources in PDP said Mehbooba has reservations on joining the all-party meet as according to them it is an exercise to show to international opinion that the political discourse with local parties has begun.
PDP’s demand has been the restoration of Article 370. NC patron Farooq Abdullah said, “So far, we haven’t received any formal invite for talks. If we get any invitation, we will first sit and discuss the strategy to be adopted for the meeting.”
Yonus Tarigami of CPM, Congress state chief GA Mir and Bukhari of Apni Party are keen on talks. “Solutions to J&K’s problems lie at New Delhi, not Islamabad or London. Delhi’s invitation is a welcome development,” Bukhari said.
“This is a chance to restore statehood,” he said, hoping an announcement for an early poll will follow the PM’s meeting. Meanwhile, the Centre on Saturday released Mufti’s uncle Sartaj Madni from detention. This came soon after MHA officials called Mufti inviting her for PM’s meeting.