National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah has said that his party will have no truck with the BJP in the coming elections and will not repeat the mistakes the Mehbooba-led PDP government made by aligning with the Right-wing party. He told Hakeem Irfan, of Economic Times that these elections are going to be about which government will defend Article 35 (a) and Article 370 and that his party was willing to join hands with Altaf Bukhari, if the latter was willing. He also comments on the political strengths of of Shah Faesal. Excerpts:
On the killings and ‘Operation All Out’
We want to put an end to this phase of militancy, alienation and the way security forces have been given complete charge of the situation. We have to create an environment for that. We had a terrible year in 2010 but there was not a single death in 2011. Why can’t a fresh government stop ‘Operation All Out’? At the end of the day, the CM heads the Unified Command.
On the NC-PDP-Congress alliance in November 2018
All my conversations with Altaf Bukhari were categorical that this was not to be a long-term government. This government of (grand alliance) was to be a short-term arrangement and the time-frame would be counted in months, not in years. It was to be a government of a few months. Then the assembly was to be dissolved and fresh elections held and Bukhari would oversee the process as caretaker chief minister. It was never decided that we will govern the state until 2020-21. Now, pre-poll alliance with PDP doesn’t make sense politically.
On not being a grassroots politician like Mehbooba
I can’t help the way you choose to perceive me. I am no more elitist than Mehbooba Mufti, except that I will not misuse people’s emotions for my political benefits. I will not shoot militants in the government and then go and cry in their homes (while) in opposition. I will not cry about stone-pelters (while) in opposition and, in government, say they had gone to buy toffee or milk. I will not criticise security forces (while) in opposition and, in government, say that they have guns and they have to use it. If not doing all of this is elitist, I am elitist.
On Sajad Lone
I don’t want to talk about Sajad now. Ask this question after the assembly elections and I would love to talk about it.
On the emergence of a Northern Alliance in Kashmir Valley
If you aspire to be the chief minister of J&K, why should you aspire to represent just one region? If one thinks you can be CM by representing four constituencies of north Kashmir, you are wrong and essentially playing into the hands of people who have divided the voices of Kashmiris for decades. NC has been the biggest sufferer of that. The birth of the PDP was the result of an autonomy resolution in 2000. Since then, various fronts are being propped up. This is why my message for people is to bring one party to power in the upcoming elections as we don’t want a coalition government.
On the possibility of an NC-BJP alliance
We have no intention of going with the BJP. We have fought them tooth and nail. At times, I like to learn from our own mistakes. Also, I don’t do mistakes that other people have done. Mehbooba Mufti herself admitted that the reason to forge an alliance with the BJP, after Mufti sahab passed away was to save her party from splitting. What has happened to her party now? If PDP would have split in 2016, her personal credibility would have remained intact. Now, the party has split and her credibility deeply eroded. I don’t want to be there.
On Shah Faesal
Faesal is a hardworking, intelligent man and would be an asset to any political party. But, he also needs to understand that when it comes to the electoral arena, if he fights as an independent, we will work to defeat him. In politics, you take no prisoners. We will fight to win.
On Altaf Bukhari
I had no conversation with Altaf, since the Governor’s fax machine started working (as the Governor said that his fax machine was not working and he didn’t receive any letter). That day, I told him that I was sorry that he couldn’t be the CM. We were willing to work with Altaf as chief ministerial candidate from the joint front. And we have no problem in working with him in future as well. But, only he has to decide. Nobody is indispensable in the electoral arena.
On 2014 and 2019 Assembly elections
These elections are going to be about the government which will defend Article 35(a) and Article 370. We will mount the strongest defence and these hearings in the Supreme Court should be stopped till an elected government is in place in the state. An administration wholly and solely answerable to New Delhi cannot be trusted with defending Article 35(a). Also, to compare 2014 and 2019 (elections) is like comparing chalk and cheese in terms of the overall environment for NC. In 2014, in the revolving door of politics, people were going out. Today, for every two people that I admit in NC, I am refusing entry to ten people.
On the election manifesto
We are looking at reaching out to the youth for meaningful employment and addressing their sentiment. We want to have a re-look at the entire gamut of laws used by the security forces –– what we can do at the state-level to change those. There is a need for political dialogue. Nobody can come up with anything new. It is just the question of how much we deliver on what we promise. In the hope that 2019 will deliver different results than 2014, we will go hammer and tongs to restart the process of re-engaging J&K with the Centre. This engagement, other than the announcement of an interlocutor, which didn’t deliver is completely stalled.
There is no need to reintroduce autonomy in any new form. It is the only roadmap which has the stamp of the legislature. Over the past five years, the government of India is not receptive of political engagement and we hope that will change after the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
It is meant to be biggest CBM that India and Pakistan can jointly give to J&K. It has to involve all sides and all aspects, like human rights violations, people who went across the LoC, political workers killed and the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. It is largely a post-conflict thing, which is why we floated it when militancy was on the decline. If it is for the benefit of J&K, it cannot be an exercise of the J&K government. The two governments of India and Pakistan have to come together for this.
On boycott of panchayat and municipal elections
Panchayats and municipalities don’t safeguard 35(a) but a state government does. We stayed away from municipal and panchayat elections so that the government of India would understand the seriousness with which we view Article 35(a) and Article 370. Participation in elections shows how seriously Kashmiris take it. Even today, vast areas remain unrepresented and many wards and panchayats are vacant. Some sarpanchs and corporators are living outside the Valley. GoI has made a mockery of grassroots democracy.
On performance in Jammu
In Jammu, people are disenchanted with the BJP and not happy with the Congress as well so we will deliver surprise in some seats. If we had fought municipal and panchayat elections, we would have been able to do better.
On possible Division Status to Ladakh
NC has a model of regional autonomy and we believe that if Governor is giving further autonomy to Leh and Kargil, he also has to look at regional autonomy to other parts. However, he is not doing this out of concern but because BJP failed in their promise of giving UT status to Ladakh. Governor is misusing office of Raj Bhawan as this decision should have been of elected government. Governor has no moral authority to take decisions of far reaching changes just to accommodate Government of India and BJP. (Courtesy: Economic Times)