These days last year, it was all-versus-BJP in Kashmir. Immediately after the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP coalition Mehbooba Mufti’s release from the 14-month-long detention, all Kashmir-based parties excluding Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party formed an alliance to fight the BJP. It was named People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).
The PAGD, headed by the National Conference (NC) president and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, declared that all of its constituents would fight the ruling BJP at the centre till restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and Statehood as it existed till 4 August 2019. It also decided to fight the BJP from one platform in the then forthcoming elections for the District Development Councils (DDCs) across the Union Territory.
The Congress party was the first to move out of the PAGD even as Dr Abdullah continued to claim that it was part of the Kashmir alliance. Some leaders of the party, according to sources, made it clear to the PAGD that the Congress would not afford to raise the demand for restoration of Article 370 parallel to the Assembly elections in Bihar. So, the Congress decided to go it alone and fielded candidates against those of the PAGD.
Days after the DDC election results were out, the Peoples Conference (PC) of Sajad Lone moved out while complaining that the NC had fielded “proxy candidates” against the PAGD nominees in northern Kashmir. Subsequently, the J&K Peoples Movement (JKPM), represented by former Minister Javed Mustafa Mir, quit the PAGD. Mir, along with a number of his associates, joined the Apni Party.
Awani National Conference (ANC), which has never won a seat in any election and was represented by the former Chief Minister Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s son Muzaffar Shah, is nothing more than filler in the PAGD. Now the PAGD was left with three parties—the NC, the PDP and the CPM. The CPM’s influence is limited to just one Assembly segment of Kugam, in southern Kashmir.
Addressing a public meeting in Kokernag, Anantnag, last week, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said emphatically that there was “no possibility” of the restoration of Article 370 and 35-A from the BJP government. Virtually calling the withdrawal of J&K’s special status by the BJP government on 5 August 2019 fait accompli, Azad asserted that the Centre would restore nothing other than Statehood, which was the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s own commitment in the Parliament.
The NC vice president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah simultaneously started a public outreach programme in Jammu’s Muslim-dominated segments in Pir Panjal and Chenab valleys. He stirred a hornet’s nest when he held late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed responsible for forging an alliance with the BJP in 2015 only to enjoy power in the State.
“Lamhon ne khata kii, sadiyon ne saza payii”, Omar said, putting the entire blame of “J&K’s destruction” on Mufti. He claimed that he had offered NC’s unconditional support to Mufti, without asking for any share in the power, so as to prevent the BJP from becoming a ruling party in Jammu and Kashmir but Mufti was adamant on becoming the BJP’s bedfellow.
Even as nobody from the PDP has, until now, responded to Omar, the former PAGD spokesman and the PC chairman Sajad Lone trained his guns on the former Chief Minister on Wednesday. Lone asserted that Omar had no moral authority to blame anybody for being the BJP’s power partner as he himself had joined Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA Government as the Union Minister of State in 1999. He claimed that none other than the NC had paved the way for the BJP to rule and ultimately revoke J&K’s special status as previously guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Yesterday I felt really bad for what they (NC) said about the late Mufti sahib for allying with the BJP. They seemed to be saying that they had never made an alliance with the BJP. The first one to be with the BJP was Omar Abdullah himself”, Lone, according to a news agency, told a group of media-persons in Srinagar.
Calling Omar as “the biggest charlatan of Kashmir”, Lone said that he had no moral authority to blame others for disempowerment of the Kashmiris. He referred to the turbulence in 2010 when Omar was the Chief Minister but announcement of curfew, which was exclusively in the State domain, used to come directly from the Union Home Minister in New Delhi.
“We have already seen when you were in power in 2010 young teenagers were being killed on streets. The Union Home secretary made announcements for relaxation of curfews and not you. We saw your role when the autonomy resolution was passed (in J&K Assembly). You should have resigned after it was rejected (by the Centre) but you didn’t,” Lone said, firing salvos on the NC vice president.
“When Article 370 was revoked, your members were laughing in the Parliament. If someone raised his voice and protested for it, it was only Fayaz Mir Sahab,” Lone said. Then a Rajya Sabha member and a leader of the PDP, Fayaz Mir has lately joined Lone’s PC.
Lone labelled both, the PDP as well as the NC, as the ‘establishment parties’, suggesting that both had acted as the BJP’s power partners and had supported the national party to pursue its agenda in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The PDP was formed in 2002 and the National Conference became an establishment party in 1996. We have always faced brutality and prejudice and the most of it came from the National Conference”, Lone said, adding that his father late Abdul Gani Lone, former Hurriyat leader who was gunned down by terrorists in 2002, spent more than a decade in Delhi’s Tihar and other prisons. Lone asserted that the demand for restoration of Article 370 would never end. He said he was hopeful that either the Parliament or the Supreme Court would one day return Article 370 to Jammu and Kashmir.
The fate of Kashmir’s counter-BJP alliance in the Assembly elections, as and when held in Jammu and Kashmir, is just writing on the wall.