In an interview with Moazum Mohammad at his Gupkar Road home in Srinagar, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah talks about the deferring of the assembly poll in J&K election and his party’s tie-up with the Congress. Excerpts:
The simultaneous state poll plan has been nixed…
The official reason is inadequate security, which I find surprising because I was witness to three assurances on the same by Union home minister Rajnath Singh-in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha and at an all-party meeting called by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj after Balakot. Clearly, there is mischief afoot.
Q. Are you blaming the BJP?
The BJP is in power at the Centre and they seem comfortable with governing through the Raj Bhavan. They have got a lot of their agenda implemented during governor’s rule.
Q. New Delhi made some questionable amendments just before polls were announced. Is there a larger design behind it?
In effect, they diluted Article 370. I hope there is no larger design behind it. They have to hold the state poll. The Supreme Court has mandated it be held within six months.
Q. Operation All-Out, launched in 2017, was aimed at wiping out militants. Has it made the situation more conducive for elections?
Nobody will say the environment is ideal for elections. But we have had elections in worse situations, like in 1996 and 2002. The situation has deteriorated since 2014. But that is the BJP-PDP’s fault. Unfortunately, all of us have to face the repercussions.
Q. Post-Pulwama, Kashmiris were attacked outside the Valley. Is the alienation worse now?
Of course, it is. We must learn from countries like New Zealand, how they responded to the Christchurch attack and how we respond to our minorities when incidents like Pulwama happen. Those who attacked Kashmiris and called for their boycott, they have done more harm to the idea of Kashmir as a part of India than anything Pakistan has done in the past 30 years.
Q. You accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making a mess of Kashmir…
If you look at parameters that affect ‘normalcy’ in J&K, like street violence, death of security forces, youngsters joining militancy, all these have worsened after PM Modi took office.
Q. The NC has tied up with the Congress for the LS polls. Is it part of the mahagathbandhan?
The mahagathbandhan is a misleading term. Basically, what we have now are localised alliances with the Congress and regional parties.
Q. What is the NC agenda for the LS poll?
Our agenda is centred around Article 35A and Article 370. The defence of it, both in Parliament as well as in the courts. It’s why we have nominated legal luminary, Justice Hasnain Masoodi, from south Kashmir.
Q. Who do you think will form the next government in New Delhi?
I cannot say. Post-Pulwama and Balakot, the way the discourse changed, it has become even tougher. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to learn our lessons. Instead of the Opposition setting the agenda and forcing PM Modi to respond, increasingly it is the reverse that is happening. We have five years of failures of this government. Even on Pulwama-Balakot, we are not holding Modi to account. Balakot became a compulsion because Pulwama happened. But why did Pulwama happen, we don’t ask that.