Jammu & Kashmir

Can political horses win races in J&K while riders sit on fence?

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and vice president of the National Conference (NC) has said that he won't fight elections unless statehood is restored to J&K.

Srinagar: How does one fight for a cause by sitting on the fence? The decision of former J&K chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti to not personally contest in assembly elections betrays the answer to the riddle.

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and vice president of the National Conference (NC) has said that he won’t fight elections unless statehood is restored to J&K.

Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister and president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has said the exact same.

Both the NC and the PDP have, however, made it clear that the two parties will participate in the forthcoming assembly elections in the UT and not leave the field wide open for the BJP that abrogated article 370 and downgraded the state to the status of a Union Territory.

But will the horses run the race without their riders? Also, can statehood be restored by the two leaders staying away or for that matter, by joining the assembly elections?

If resolutions passed by the J&K assembly had the constitutional authority then what happened to the autonomy resolution passed by the state assembly on June 26, 2000 when NC president, Dr Farooq Abdullah was the chief minister?

NC has since been ruing that the autonomy resolution was thrown into the dustbin by the Centre.

Well, if that resolution had any legal and constitutional validity, then why didn’t the NC or the state government of that time agitate the same in the Supreme Court?

Now the two parties, NC and the PDP are part of the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) that owes its creation to the spirit that all like-minded political parties should join hands to fight for the restoration of articles 370, 35A and statehood to J&K.

While Omar said the NC would field its candidates for all the 90 seats for the assembly elections, Dr Farooq Abdullah quickly stepped in to save the PAGD by asserting that the numbers would be decided after taking the parties in the PAGD on board.

Adversity makes strange bedfellows, but never has adversity made stranger bed fellows like the NC and the PDP. In fact, the NC leaders have always been crying hoarse that the PDP was created by the central intelligence agencies to cut the NC to size.

That ‘Central intelligence birth of the PDP’ was again asserted by the NC when the former formed an alliance government with the BJP after the 2015 assembly elections.

Now the ‘saint’ and the ‘sinner’ have decided to sup together for ‘the greater cause’.

As to how the ‘saint’ and the ‘sinner’ can ever have a commonality of cause is for the ‘saint’ to explain.

The two parties claim to have buried the hatchet for getting J&K its special status and statehood back.

How would fighting an assembly election achieve these two objectives even if the two parties get an absolute majority during those elections?

And, how would the staying away by Omar and Mehbooba from the electoral battle give moral legitimacy to the other leaders of the two parties joining the electoral fray?

Assembly elections in J&K can be won or lost for another hundred years without any impact on the abrogated article 370 and the downgrading of the state.

The Parliament of the country abrogated an Article that was included in the constitution as a temporary provision. The Parliament just abrogated a temporary provision that it had created.

Whether the abrogation of article 370 was within the constitutional authority of the country’s Parliament or not cannot be decided by any UT or state assembly in India.

The only constitutional authority to do this is the Supreme Court of the country or the Parliament itself.

Constitutional battles cannot be fought on the streets by seeking votes for an assembly election. Nor can statehood be claimed by winning an assembly election.

Can it be accepted by any stretch of imagination that Omar and Mehbooba do not know these basic legal/constitutional realities? Not even the dumbest among their voters would believe that.

Joining or staying away from elections is the basic right of every citizen of India.

One can also decide whether or not to vote in an election without any aspersions on his/her nationalist credentials.

But, trying to stay away from elections because J&K is no longer a state or asking the people to vote for their parties because article 370 needs restoration is beyond anyone’s comprehension except the two former chief ministers.

Kashmiris have been exploited for decades with the false promises of rock salt and green handkerchiefs during election campaigns.

Slogans to stoke religious sentiments to curry political favours would not help after so many lives were lost fighting for a goal that turned out to be mirage.

As respected leaders of J&K, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have a moral and legal duty to introspect and decide whether trying to give that ‘mirage’ a rebirth in any form is in anyone’s interest except the enemies of the country.

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