SRINAGAR: The ruling National Conference (NC) is all set to raise the demand for Autonomy to J&K in the upcoming Assembly elections in a desperate attempt to woo the voters.
According to party’s sitting MLA and candidate for Zadibal Assembly constituency Peer Afaq, the demand for Autonomy, or restoration of the pre-1953 position, would figure prominently in the manifesto.
“Pre-1953 position will be the main agenda of our party in the upcoming polls,” Peer told Kashmir Reader.
The pre-1953 status means restoration of the state’s sovereign character with its own Prime Minister and Sadre-e-Riyasat (Governor); New Delhi would only control the state’s Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communication, and Finance.
J&K enjoyed an autonomous and special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution till 1953. After the dismissal and arrest of NC’s founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as J&K’s Prime Minister in August 1953, the successive governments in New Delhi systematically eroded the Autonomy of the state.
Nearly 25 years after Sheikh Abdullah signed the Indira-Abdullah accord that saw his return to the ‘mainstream’ as J&K’s Chief Minister, the party in 2000 formally raised the demand for pre-1953 status in its Autonomy document. But it was rejected by Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government in New Delhi with which the NC had an alliance. And 15 years on, the Modi government has made it loud and clear that it’s seriously committed to abrogation of Article 370.
The demand of restoration of pre-1953 position has been a regular feature of NC’s electioneering. In the last Assembly elections in 2008, the party had vigorously raised the demand for Autonomy. But after coming to power, it did nothing to see its dream turning into reality. In fact, most of the promises NC had made in the 2008 polls manifesto, including the removal of draconian AFSPA, were stonewalled by its alliance partner Congress. The NC’s meek surrender to the Congress, according to many Kashmiris, gave an impression that it may have traded silence for its six years of unhindered lead in the coalition government.
Roughly, the last time NC talked about restoration of the pre-1953 position was in April 2013 when Mustafa Kamal, its controversial leader and uncle of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said, “Restoration of pre-1953 position is the only remedy within the constitutional framework to end decades of uncertainty and mayhem (in Kashmir).”
NC spokesman Junaid Mattoo said the resolution of Kashmir issue will be a part of the manifesto. “I cannot say with precision if or not the demand of pre-1953 position will be a part of the manifesto, but there will definitely be something on the resolution of Kashmir issue,” he said.
The party’s manifesto for the five-phased Assembly polls beginning November 25 is being prepared, according to Mattoo, and will be made public in the coming days.