Polls two days away, parties yet to release manifestos

Moazum Mohammad
Srinagar: The first phase of the Assembly polls is two days away and no major political party has released its election manifesto, possibly because none of them could accomplish anything they promised on significant issues such as AFSPA, demilitarization, Self Rule, Autonomy, release of prisoners.
People’s Democratic Party was scheduled to release its manifesto at a function on Saturday, but postponed it at the eleventh hour.
“We want to give something special and not routine in the election manifesto. A committee was formed for the purpose five months ago but due to the floods the process stalled. That’s why it took time,” PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar told Kashmir Reader.
“In a day or two, we will release the manifesto. We haven’t abandoned the Self Rule but there are existential issues like abrogation of Article 370. It is basically about state subject law, which gets priority,” Akhtar said.
The BJP, whose aggressive pre-election strategies and announcements, has given rise to “existential issues” Akhtar talks about, says it might release the manifesto during the second phase of the polls.
“But we aren’t sure whether to release it or not. Leaders are busy with election campaigning due to which we couldn’t release it. Also, everyone is aware that our agenda is development of the state,” said a senior BJP leader, wishing anonymity.
Senior NC leader Sheikh Mustafa Kamal said, “It becomes an academic exercise if we keep issuing manifestoes. I feel there is no need to release it every time. Perhaps there is nothing new to release. We are the oldest political party,” Kamal said.
The oldest party has ruled the state for 12 of the past 18 years since 1996 when elections were held for the first time after the eruption of the armed insurgency, with restoration of pre-1953 autonomy as its main poll plank. But New Delhi binned a resolution for the autonomy the party passed in the state assembly. It lost in 2002 elections. Again in 2008 polls, it made removal of draconian AFSPA as a poll promise, but failed to get any concession on the issue from India.
In its election meetings, PDP has largely focused on the NC “misrule” and remained silent on its Self Rule agenda, which had promised autonomy greater than pre-1953 position.
The Congress, which has been in power in coalition with NC and PDP in the previous two governments, said its manifesto got delayed due to some issues with printing.
“It will be released on Sunday,” Congress state vice-president Ghulam Nabi Monga said.