There are very few leaders who start their political career with an impact. The present Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) Chief, Ghulam Ahmad Mir is one among those.
Mir, who is considered close to the Ghandi family rose to the top post in the Pradesh Congress Committee in March 2015. Mir, is deeply connected with ground level workers had been at the helm of affairs when Congress and the PDP shared power in early 2000. He headed various important ministries during the period. Even when National Conference (NC) joined hands with Congress to run the state, Mir figured as among those who mattered in the government circles.
Mir, who witnessed many ups and downs in his political career has a strong base in his home constituency, which he believes will make his entry back in the state assembly during the next elections.
While interacting with the ‘Kashmir Vision’ Correspondent, Owais Gul, JKPCC Chief talked about the failure of current dispensation and the future of Congress party in the next assembly polls. Below are the excerpts from an exclusive interview with G A Mir.
Q: How do you see the functioning of current PDP-BJP government?
Mir: The PDP-BJP bonhomie has completed nearly three years now, but people of the state, including Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh region have been betrayed in every aspect. The promises made to the people like-return of power projects, release of political prisoners, initiative of dialogue process, eradication of the unemployment, development and especially providing the basic facilities have proven a mere hoax on ground. The claims and the party’s doings are mismatching. Therefore, I feel no hesitation to say that the government led by the Mehbooba Mufti has failed on the ground as the sufferings of the common people still continue. It is not the need, but this government also crossed the limits of atrocities by booking innocent youth under Public Safety Act (PSA).
Q: Opposition parties, including the Congress are continuously saying that alienation among the people has increased. Do you feel that there is a sense of alienation, especially among the youth?
Mir: As I already said that the government has utterly failed in every respect. Since the current dispensation assumed charge, people here are being deprived of every basic facility. Definitely, the alienation was earlier there as well, but this time, the alienation between the government and the people is at an all time high. The people have no expectations from the government, as the government has failed to come up with people-friendly policies.
Q: How do you see the recent civilian killings in Kashmir?
Mir: It is not a phenomenon witnessed recently only—it is the matter of over 1100 days of PDP-BJP government, where death and destruction is an all time high. See the number of pellet victims, custodial deaths are highest, FIRs against the innocent youth are at an all time high again, innocent killings again highest, disabilities to people because of use of force is alarming, cease fire violations are at its peak, corruption is on a high, inflation is touching highest points and favouritism rules the day. The only thing which is zero on the ground and is visible is the under development and lack of policies to tackle the unemployment issue.
Mehbooba led government sacrificed the entire state for one family. The government is all filled with her relatives. Everything that has been promised was not fulfilled. The government failed to revoke AFSPA, set free all the political prisoners. And to cap it all, the present regime has registered FIRs against 80 thousand people.
Q: The government recently announced regularization of 61000 daily wagers and casual labourers. How do you see the move?
Mir: The regularization policy announcement by this government is the work of previous regime. The government has delayed the announcement for three years now. All the process was done by the NC-Congress regime, but the announcement was delayed due to the 2014 deluge. We were scheduled to hold a cabinet meet on Sept 04 2014, in which the regularization of the casual and daily wagers could have been announced, but the floods spoiled the move. This government delayed the process unnecessarily for three years. There has been encroachment in the regularization of daily wagers and casual labourers’ list. Those deserving have been neglected, while others, who were their dear ones have been mentioned in the list. Let us wait for the final list to see how much fishy it would be.
Q: Recently, former Minister and Congress leader Sham Lal Sharma stated that the process to announce the regularization was delayed due to the then coalition partner NC, how true is it?
Mir:The number of employees at some departments in Jammu region was lowest as compared to the Kashmir region, which created issues at that time between NC and Congress, especially Sham Lal Sharma.
In view of the higher reach, the Valley had more number of employees as compared to Jammu region, which resulted in differences in 2014, but that was not the only reason behind the delay in the process of regularization. The main reason that delayed it was floods.
Q: How confident is the Congress party about getting a simple majority on its own in next assembly polls?
Mir: We are definitely confident to gain the ground in the next upcoming polls, as the people of Kashmir are quite aware about the governance of all the parties here, including the role of Congress in 2005. NC served people for several years following which the people gave their mandate to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was an encouraging mandate but they betrayed the peoples trust as it failed to fulfill its promises made to the people during election campaign.
Congress headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad sahab has done a wonderful work and people are aware about those developments including the expansion in health sector, roads and other key sectors. I think people will judge it in a better way that Congress can give the best governance as Congress has got the skill, experience and vigil for the people. We hope that the people will choose good governance and provide us the mandate in the next assembly polls.
Q: Will congress go for any pre-poll alliance in 2020 assembly elections?
Mir: It is too early to say anything in this regard. There are still three years to go for it, and Congress is all time best in all the three regions. There is no need to go for any pre-poll alliance but the party High Command will take the final call over the issue at the appropriate time, keeping in view the overall ground situation.
Q: How would you react over the recent statement by NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah, wherein he said that they (NC) will go for the next polls alone?
Mir: We have already said that it is their party matter. Congress has contested in the elections alone in 2008 and after being in coalition, and again, we fought the elections alone. We went for the pre-poll alliance in 2014 only, and the persuasion for the pre-poll alliance was from the NC. That was a tactical move and understanding. I don’t know why Dr Farooq Abdullah made such statement, but I only know that we are trying our level best to fight the upcoming elections alone. However, in case of any pre-poll alliance, the party High Command will take the decision at the appropriate time.
Q: Jammu is seen as a BJP bastion now, do you think Congress can wrestle it back?
Mir: No, Jammu has not and will never become the bastion of BJP. People of the region are very secular and broad minded. They know what Congress did when we were in power and what BJP is doing these days. The Jammu people should remain aware about the polarization aspect associated with the BJP. If they don’t pay heed over the polarization part then, it will be definitely Congress in Jammu region in the next assembly elections.
Q: What do you think would be a greater challenge for JK’s opposition parties in 2020 assembly elections?
Mir: Jammu and Kashmir is the most beautiful state across the country, where Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christians are living together with unity. Some political parties during the elections divide people on communal lines. The political parties during the election campaigning should not divide the people, as it could be hazardous to the whole of India. That should not happen, and should not be allowed by the people at any cost.
Q: How do you see the defeat of Congress in other Indian states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh?
Mir: I cannot say that it was the defeat of the congress, as I believe Congress has morally emerged victorious on the ground. Earlier, people in Gujarat were casting their ballots in favour of BJP, but this time the BJP won the elections with mere ten seats more than what the Congress got.
As people came to know about the negative aspects of the ruling BJP, all the poor sections and backward sections, including farmers and others were ignored and BJP has failed to come up to their expectations and finally the people casted their ballots in the favour of Congress.
The gap of 10 seats is not any loss, but almost a win for the Congress as the state was the epicenter of the BJP’s ideology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi played the polarization card in the need of the elections, which helped the party to get more ten seats than the Congress. We are happy to see the change on the ground as people are getting aware about what is good for them and what is not.
Q: Do you think the EVMs can be tempered as BJP is being accused of doing so?
Mir: In Gujarat, no such event was witnessed in a mass way but in earlier elections including assembly polls, UP elections, ULB polls, such issues were raised by different parties but in Gujarat-elections were being held with International media and other channels focusing their eyes on the process. The BJP didn’t adopt the procedure they did in earlier polls but the power, money and machinery they used at local polling level may have affected polls to some extent.
Q: How do you see the deferment of Parliamentary bi-elections and Panchayat elections in JK?
Mir: The government has failed to provide security to hold the Lok Sabah and other elections. Any state government is duty bound to provide safety and security to public and the day when she (Chief Minister) wrote to Chief Election Commission (CEC)that the situation is not conducive that was the acceptance of her failure. Now she has again told the CEC that situation is not conducive for the Panchayat polls. I believe the government which fails to create a situation conducive for the polls, has no right to be in the power.
Q: Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti’s brother, Tassaduq Mufti, will be inducted in the cabinet. How would you see this development?
Mir: Mehbooba Mufti earlier tried to put her brother on the shoulders of people in South Kashmir. But she understood that people have become wise enough, aware and won’t cast their ballots in Tassaduq’s favour.
The Chief Minister then got the polls deferred after assessing the ground situation that her party was all set to get a drubbing at the hands of the voters. Now, the induction of Tassaduq Mufti as MLC can be termed as SRO 42 in a simple way. The person who has not fought the elections and do not know the ground situation, is being inducted in the government. It is simply a family rule, nothing else. This regime is giving benefits only to their relatives, while rest of the state has been ignored.
Q: Former Member of Parliament and PDP founder member, Tariq Hameed Karra has joined Congress. Do you see any change on the ground after his joining?
Mir: There is no such big difference, but yes we do agree that this is our achievement that a basic member of the PDP left the party along with the Lok Sabha post and in these circumstance he joined the Congress as he felt that it is the only party which has a vision, leadership and programme for the people of Kashmir.
These were the reasons that he left PDP and joined Congress. It is an encouraging sign for Congress as a whole. We are expecting that more like-minded people will come forward and will join the Congress in the near future.
Q: How difficult it is to be on the chair of JKPCC chief?
Mir: It is a job round the clock, not an hourly or weekly thing. You have to be vigilant and available every time. The state is geographically vast and people do expect many things from JKPCC President, and you have to be available for all and comfortable with each and every section of the society. That is the job of PCC chief as on today.
Q: The Budget session is all set to begin next month. What issues, will congress be raising during the session?
Mir: We are going to raise various important issues during the Budget session, which would be related to the common masses of the state. The issues like failure of the government, agenda of alliance, developmental promises, achievement of interlocutor, back door entries, lack of basic facilities, implementation of central package, FIRs against innocent youth, atrocities on people and cease fire violation will be raised during the session. We do not shy away from playing a role as a constructive opposition. We will try to make the current dispensation accountable for all the issues.