Srinagar: To make the National Conference (NC) relevant in J&K’s politics once again, party president Farooq Abdullah has begun vociferously pitching for autonomy as the permanent solution to Kashmir. However, when the NC was in power from 2008 to 2014, it never seriously took up the matter of autonomy with the Government of India (GOI). When the 2010 uprising erupted, the NC followed the policy of upholding “law and order” rather than addressing the political dispute.
Political analysts say that the party is now talking autonomy because it considers this an opportune time to do so.
“The NC is adjusting itself to the new opportunity provided by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP),” political analyst Dr Sheikh Showket Hussain said. “It has been their trademark to fall back upon the slogan of autonomy to make the party relevant on the ground. They know the PDP has lost ground due to the 2016 unrest. They think it is an opportune time to sell autonomy to people.”
The NC came under severe criticism for its handling of the 2010 pro-freedom protests. It also lost the assembly polls that were held in 2014.
It is now the PDP that is under intense pressure for its brutal response to the 2016 uprising. “The NC is trying to regain legitimacy among people,” Hussain said. “However, what is also true that apart from passing the autonomy resolution in 2000, they never seriously proceeded on it.”
“It has been their attitude. They have never become a party to litigations seeking autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir,” Hussain added.
After the re-election of Farooq Abdullah as party president, the NC has upped its demand for restoration of autonomy. Its top leaders have been speaking about autonomy at public gatherings and party meetings.
“They are just selling themselves to people by taking up autonomy now,” said political science professor, Noor Ahmad Baba. “They talked about it in 2008 (when assembly elections were held) but did not pursue it when they were in power. They passed the autonomy resolution (in 2000) but never followed it up with action.”
Baba said the reality was that the NC may have tried to protect autonomy, but the party lost its leverage after 1953.