Srinagar: Empty threat is what the National Conference was making when it said it would take to the streets if the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was implemented in the state. The principal opposition party seems to have forgotten both its concerns about the GST and its talk of mounting pressure on the government against it.
Before the GST was introduced in the state, the NC had issued press statements and its senior leaders had conducted pressers to vow “tooth and nail” resistance to the central tax. The NC continued to oppose the GST even after it was passed by the government during the special assembly session on July 7.
The NC has done nothing since the GST was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. Neither have its workers come on the roads, nor have they held token protests. The party’s leaders are now blaming Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani for foiling their plans of protest.
“We had said that if the GST was implemented in its current form, we would protest,” senior NC leader and legislator Akbar Lone told Kashmir Reader. “We were in the process of protesting but Syed Ali Geelani came in the way and aided the PDP-led government. He said that GST and Article 370 were not an issue. His statement led to doubts among people, who began to think that GST was not an issue.”
“If I say Geelani bailed out Mehbooba, I won’t be wrong,” the NC leader said. “By one stroke, Geelani reduced the tempo against the GST. If he would not have spoken, our voice would have been multiplied, instead of getting strangulated under doubts created by the Hurriyat leader.”
Lone claimed that the NC did resist the implementation of GST in Kashmir, but the government moved ahead nonetheless.
Asked what the NC did after the GST was introduced, he said, “We expressed our protest and we are still protesting. We are informing people about the challenges created by the GST on the political and fiscal autonomy of the state.”
He did not explain how the party was doing so.
“People should join us. They will understand the ill effects of GST in the times to come. They should come and fearlessly resist it. We will sacrifice our lives if Article 370 is diluted,” Lone said.
NC general secretary and senior leader Ali Mohamamd Sagar claimed that his party had held anti-GST protests at several places in north Kashmir.
“We have already held protests in Kupwara. We are planning to hold protests in other places in the coming days,” Sagar said.
Political analyst Noor Ahmad Baba said that the NC’s opposition to the GST had employed mere rhetoric.
“They have no power to go against GST. Mainstream politics is marginalised in Kashmir due to the unequal relationship between the state and the centre. The NC could not do anything in 1975, nor can it now,” Baba said. “The mainstream parties employ only rhetoric to appear in news. It appeals to people. They can’t do anything more. They will not come on the streets. They will only make noises, as the PDP was doing in 2010.”
“If you talk of political consciousness and moral commitment, it is non-existent in Kashmir mainstream politics. They have been a disempowered lot since 1990. There is no rule of law in Kashmir. The government is supposed to exert itself but it has no power to do that,” Baba added.
He said that if rhetoric is endlessly repeated, people grow tired of it. “People become indifferent to such things. Nobody takes things seriously, then. That is what is happening with the NC’s threats,” Baba said.