‘We Have To Talk To Our Neighbour’
Srinagar: Veteran politician and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Sunday wondered why there was a delay in holding Assembly elections in the Union territory and said it was time to have an elected government.
In an interview to PTI Video, Abdullah, the 85-year-old Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar, said that when BJP leaders announce publicly that they will win 50 seats in elections, what prevents them from holding the democratic exercise.
Abdullah, who talked about a range of issues, again advocated for early resumption of dialogue with Pakistan for ensuring lasting peace in the subcontinent.
The National Conference president also spoke about the country’s decline on various fronts such as human rights issue, growing religious intolerance and corruption, saying “all these things don’t augur well for this great nation”.
On the delay in conducting Assembly elections, Abdullah said as far as the government goes, it has been saying all the time that conditions are alright here.
“If the conditions are alright then what prevents them from holding elections. After all, we are living in a democratic country, and for so many years we haven’t had an elected government. We have a lieutenant governor with advisors and he can’t meet the problems of people, it has become a bureaucratic government.”
“It is time for an elected government,” he said.
Abdullah said he had raised this issue with the opposition parties and they have done what best they could. “Finally, it rests with the Election Commission. We made a representation and opposition parties have also pressed for holding elections…. It is now up to them to decide.”
“I can’t understand if they want to hold panchayat elections and hold other elections in J and K, why not the general elections to the Assembly. What prevents them from doing that?” he asked.
Abdullah referred to a statement made by BJP Jammu and Kashmir unit chief Ravinder Raina in Anantnag earlier this week that there were chances of his party winning more than 50 seats in the Assembly elections and forming its government. There are 90 seats in the Assembly following a delimitation exercise.
“Now if they (BJP) are so sure of winning, what prevents them from testing the electoral waters,” Abdullah said while making it clear that no one in this country is able to understand the reason behind the delay in holding Assembly elections.
Asked whether the situation was conducive for holding the elections, Abdullah said, “Well, they say there is a lot of tourism, the situation is very good. So, what they say, I don’t want to say anything else to that. That is why I say if the situation is so good, why not hold elections. What prevents them?”
Pressed again on whether the situation has actually improved, Abdullah smiled and gave a cryptic reply: “That is a million dollar question and a million dollar question is very difficult to answer.”
Referring to the recent visit of Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to Goa to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Abdullah said, “It is a very good move. He has come because we are neighbours and we have problems and together we have to sort them out. I hope that the government will also respond in a similar manner and try to find better methods of peace between these two nations.”
To a question that Pakistan’s intent on pushing militants has not shown any decline, he said militancy continues to be a part of this tragedy and it hasn’t ended.
“The government used to shout that probably this (Article) 370 was responsible for this militancy. For the last three years, there is no (Article) 370, militancy is still there, rather it is increasing. So there must be some problem…whatever they may say, finally we have to talk to our neighbour and find a just solution to the vexed problem that has been there for the last 70 years.
“It has created bitterness in communities, it has created bitterness in everything and unless we find a solution, this tragedy will continue,” Abdullah said. Article 370 was scrapped on August 19, 2019 and the state was downgraded and bifurcated into two Union Territories with Ladakh being carved out of the erstwhile state.
On holding G-20 meetings he wondered why Jammu was not chosen as a venue.
“My point was simple that if the same (G20 meetings) could be held in Kashmir and Ladakh, then why not Jammu…all these years Jammu people blamed leaders from Kashmir of neglecting them but today, it’s the BJP government at the Centre…So why it (Jammu) is not the venue. Maybe some things could have improved there as well,” he said.
Abdullah, who represented India at the United Nations along with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he was leader of the Opposition, feels bitter over the anti-national tag that is often attached to him.
“Truth is bitter and when they don’t want to listen to the truth, they try to put all the labels on you that they think will stick…they will always call us Pakistanis.
“…when we tell them the truth, we are either terrorists, we are either communal or we are Pakistanis. Thank God they have not pinned us to China. This is their way of doing things. They don’t want to listen to the truth,” Abdullah said.