Srinagar: Instead of four government ministers, only one — finance minister Haseeb Drabu — has gone to Delhi to lobby with the government of India to protect Article 35A of the Indian Constitution which has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Drabu is camping for the past five days in Delhi and is reportedly trying hard to get BJP leaders withdraw from their demand of scrapping 35A.
Several government sources said that the other three ministers, who included law minister Abdul Haq Khan, horticulture minister Syed Basharat Bukhari and information minister Chowdhary Zulfikar were dropped from the Delhi visit at the last moment on Friday.
“Even the air tickets were booked for the ministers. They dropped the plan at the last moment,” a government source said.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) general secretary Nizamudin Bhat said that news was wrongly circulated that four ministers would visit Delhi for lobbying purposes.
“It was not a move which was required. We will fight the legal battle for 35A in the court. Why we needed lobbying then?” Bhat said, without disclosing what led to the change of mind in the government.
The same views were echoed by information minister Zulfiqar Chowdhary.
“We had no plans to visit Delhi. I think it was wrongly circulated in the media that ministers will be visiting Delhi for lobbying purposes,” Chowdhary said.
Earlier the media had reported that four ministers will go to Delhi to explore support for the state government on the issue of Article 35A.
“We are going to Delhi on 18th (August) to see what can be done to put up a strong defence to our case,’’ state law minister Abdul Haq Khan was quoted by The Indian Express newspaper as saying. “We will meet people and seek further legal opinion,” he told the newspaper.
Sources said that instead of a team of four ministers, only Drabu was chosen by the government as he has close ties with the BJP’s central leadership.
“Drabu is camping in Delhi from past five days,” sources said. “He is lobbying with the BJP leadership to drop the idea of abrogating 35A. Instead, he is asking them to stand with the state government in the Supreme Court to protect the provision.”
Sources said that finance minister Drabu is trying hard to get the BJP withdraw from its stand of holding a debate on Article 35A.
“His focus is to get the support of the central leadership,” they said. “He is trying to make them understand the repercussions if the law is abrogated.”
Drabu is considered close to the BJP as it was he who stitched the Agenda of Alliance with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav to form the PDP-BJP government in the state. He was also instrumental in bringing the Goods and Services Tax in Kashmir without any obstructions.
“The government hopes he will use his influence in Delhi,” sources said.
Sources also said that law minister Haq Khan would fly to New Delhi on Wednesday to meet legal experts.
Kashmir Reader has already reported that during her various meetings with the central leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mehbooba Mufti was told that they cannot intervene as the matter was sub judice. They have further told her that it was up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to keep the special provision or strike it down.
Article 35A allows the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the list of ‘permanent residents’ of the state, who are eligible to vote, work for the state government, and own land.