The recent PAGD meeting was symbolic to show its presence but also indicated softening of the stand, writes Zahoor Malik
The recent meeting of the constituents of Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) had nothing new to offer about their self stated mission. When they met last week abruptly, they, in a way, indicated softening of their otherwise tough posture by showing willingness for talks with the centre including on delimitation process.
The meeting was held after several months of criticism from various quarters that PAGD has lost interest in its mission. The critics alleged that the existence of PAGD is just a formality and that it has died its own death last year. PAGD was formed by various mainstream political parties for the restoration of articles 370 and 35 A.
Dr Abdullah Speaks
The recent meeting was also held at a time when rumours were doing rounds that the central government is planning further division of Jammu and Kashmir to end the alleged political and administrative monopoly of Kashmiris. However, the local administration was quick to respond saying the rumours are baseless and that there was no such plan. The authorities also ruled out the imposition of curfew or communication blockade.
National Conference (NC) president Dr Farooq Abdullah during his media interaction at the end of the recent meeting said they too are hearing a different kind of rumours and do not know much. “Let us pray that whatever happens should happen for the good of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. Similar rumours had sent him, his son, Omar and MP, Husnain Masoodi to Prime Minister, barely a few days ahead of August 5, 2019.
Dr Abdullah said no doors are closed for talks with the Centre and if they invite, the PAGD will decide. Farooq reiterated that the constituents are committed to the PAGD declaration of August 4, 2019.
Earlier, Farooq, in the capacity of NC president, said his party had moved to court against fresh delimitation of assembly and parliament constituencies. He, however, said they have not closed doors for talks with the centre on various issues including delimitation. He indicated that his party can take part in deliberations with the delimitation commission, for which they were already invited.
Earlier, NC had boycotted the talks with the commission saying the exercise was a move to unfairly change the political spectrum.
NC now says it wants to talk to the delimitation commission as it does not want to give BJP a free hand in this exercise.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has said her party has no objection if NC joins delimitation deliberations since it is their decision. Her spokesman said the party has no MP as its three Rajya Sabha members have completed their term and have been expelled from the party as well.
Eyes On Delimitation
Presently, all eyes are on the delimitation commission as to when it will submit its report to the union government and what will be its recommendations. But one thing is for sure that assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir will be held only after the centre accepts the report, adds more seats to the assembly and redraws the boundaries of some other constituencies.
The latest media reports indicate that the centre has dropped hints to political parties here regarding holding assembly polls either by the end of this year or early next year. The major political parties, which were completely sidelined by Delhi since August 5, 2019, will likely gear up for the elections in the coming months. It is no secret that the centre wanted these parties to accept the realities after August 5, 2019, and move on but they publicly took a tough stance and formed PAGD. Now since the parties have started softening the stance, Delhi wants them to participate in elections, also reportedly being recommended by an influential section of the international community.
Secondly, the centre’s move to create new and young political forces in Kashmir after the abrogation of article 370 did not yield the desired results for it. The move was aimed at completely removing the Abdullahs and Muftis from the political scene since the BJP leaders blame both the political families for all the mess, corruption and misgovernance in Jammu and Kashmir. The moves to create Apni Party or strengthen the Peoples Conference could not also help the centre to the extent it was expected.
BJP would surely love to see its like-minded parties win in Kashmir and form the government. Political observers feel that if all the contesting parties are freely allowed to participate in polls and campaign, and the polling is not rigged then the results can be against the expectations of BJP. NC can emerge stronger. The party, founded by the tallest leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, had single-handedly dominated the political scene in the state for decades together. However, its history of making compromises and changing its principal stand for power badly dented its image and made it weaker.
This weakness had led to the emergence of PDP as a political alternative to NC. PDP itself is in very bad shape right now. It has lost its ground after it formed a coalition government with BJP and then due to the happenings during their rule. Mehbooba is trying to do damage control after the fall of her government and subsequent reading down of Article 370. Her efforts have angered Delhi a lot, which is very obvious from the subsequent developments.
Participation of parties like NC and PDP in elections is politically important for the central government to make the poll process credible and wider. This process can be an advantage to Delhi at the international level to show that Jammu and Kashmir has reconciled with the August 5, 2019 decision-making. That is perhaps why the Government of India is reportedly toying with the idea of an all-party meeting on Kashmir to which all the stakeholders from Jammu and Kashmir will be invited.