SRINAGAR—Two years after stripping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Modi-led government has embarked on a `Mission Kashmir’ to woo the political parties in a bid to prepare the ground for the assembly elections later this year or next year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to chair an all-party meet with the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir next week. The move is seen as a first major step towards mending fences with local political parties post abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
The decision to hold the meeting comes against the backdrop of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday. Though the meeting was to review developmental activities, the political situation hogged the limelight.
Last month, National Conference (NC) sent feelers to end the boycott of the Centre’s delimitation commission. It marked a significant shift in the NC’s policy post-August 5, 2019 when the Centre abrogated Article 370 and downgraded Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.
Under Reorganization Act, 2019, the Union Territory of J&K will have an Assembly while Ladakh will not. Under the Act, the number of seats in the J&K Assembly would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation.
Delimitation Commission appointed shall have three members –serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.
In February last year, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora named Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his nominee to the Delimitation Commission. On March 6 last year, the Centre appointed former Supreme Court judge Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai as head of the Commission.
Later in May 2020, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla nominated three NC MPs —Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone, and Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi – as members of the Delimitation Commission.
In February this year, the Commission held its first meeting but National Conference did not participate. Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said they have no MP or MLA and therefore cannot participate in the exercise.
Come June, both National Conference and PDP, which are part of five party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), have softened their stand.
Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), comprise National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Awami National Conference, CPIM and Jammu, and Kashmir Peoples Movement. The conglomerate was formed to fight for the restoration of the special status and statehood of Jammu and Kashmir
“So far we haven’t received any formal invite from New Delhi for talks. If we get an invitation, we will first sit and discuss the issue. So far we haven’t received any invitation from the Centre.” Farooq Abdullah, NC president told a local news agency.
Mehbooba Mufti, however, confirmed that she has received a formal invite from New Delhi for the meeting on June 24. “Yes, I got a phone call from Delhi and I have been invited for a meeting on June 24. The meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” she said.
She, however, said they have not yet decided whether to attend the meet or not.
PAGD spokesman and CPI (M) leader MY Tarigami said he hasn’t got any invitation from the Centre. “Neither formal nor informal invitation has been received by me. There is no communication from New Delhi at all,” he said.
Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari said the solution to J&K’s problems lies in New Delhi. “We openly state that we have a relation with Delhi. Solutions to J&K’s problems lie in New Delhi, not Islamabad, New York or London. Delhi’s invitation to J&K’s political parties is a welcome development. My question to all the political parties is they called us King’s party, now who is King’s party?” Bukhari asked.