By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Nov 17 (IANS) A war of attrition has broken out between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the parties in the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in Jammu & Kashmir with the National Conference picking up the gauntlet against the second-most powerful man in the ruling BJP after Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shah took the PAGD head on Tuesday when he broke his silence for the first time after the alliance seeking restoration of Articles 370 and 35A and statehood for J&K was formed.
Shah tweeted on Tuesday: “The Gupkar Gang is going global! They want foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gupkar Gang also insults India’s Tricolour. Do Sonia ji and Rahul ji support such moves of the Gupkar Gang? They should make their stand crystal clear to the people of India.”
Shah was referring to two developments those followed the formation of the PAGD.
One was NC chief Farooq Abdullah’s statement in which he had sought help from China for restoration of Article 370. The statement was later denied by the NC alleging that the party president had been misquoted.
The second point raised by Shah is the statement by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti which she made after her party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), joined the alliance.
Mufti said unless the state flag of erstwhile J&K was restored, she would not pick up the national flag.
It may be recalled that before the abrogation of the special status, J&K had a separate constitution and a separate flag.
The state constitution was operative concomitantly with the Indian Constitution and the state flag was hoisted side by side with the national flag at the Civil Secretariat, the seat of the Governor in J&K.
NC leader and ex-CM Omar Abdullah has taken strong exception to the statement made by Shah. In his counter allegation to Shah’s charges, Omar said, “We are not a ‘gang’ Amit Shah ji, we are a legitimate political alliance having fought & continuing to fight elections, much to your disappointment.”
The PAGD has been alleging that the BJP believed and hoped that the regional political parties like the NC and the PDP would stay away from the district development council (DDC) polls and thereby the BJP and its purported ally – JK Apni Party of Altaf Bukhari – would sweep these polls.
Incidentally, Omar Abdullah has been calling JK Apni Party as the “King’s party” to convey an impression that it is the B-team of the BJP, an allegation strongly refuted by Altaf Bukhari.
In his war of attrition against Shah, Omar Abdullah said in another comment, “I can understand the frustration behind this attack by the Hon’ble Home Minister. He had been briefed that the People’s Alliance was preparing to boycott elections. This would have allowed the BJP & newly formed ‘King’s party’ a free run in J&K. We didn’t oblige them”.
Strong words used by both Shah and Omar Abdullah are seen locally as a part of the election campaign by the BJP and the NC against each other.
The DDC elections are very important for all the political parties in J&K since under the Panchayati Raj system, all developmental decisions would be taken at the level of the DDCs.
NC and the PDP initially said that all electoral processes would be meaningless unless the pre-August 5, 2019 position was restored when the state lost its special status.
In defence of their decision to join the DDC elections, the parties in the PAGD are saying that the DDCs are a ‘sacred space’ which cannot be left open for the BJP.
While the NC and the PDP have ground level party cadre in the Valley, the BJP has so far not been able to attract the imagination of the common Kashmiri.
In contrast to this, the BJP is better placed in the Jammu division where it has its cadre active at the grassroots level.
Despite the BJP’s strong presence in the Jammu division, the NC, and to some extent, the PDP also have support especially in districts with sizeable Muslim population in the Jammu division.
The general impression created by the NC and the PDP is that since they have joined the DDC elections, the BJP does not have half the chance to win these elections.
If the impression is to be conveyed to attract votes then it is a good electoral strategy, but if the NC and the PDP seriously believe the situation to be so, then a surprise could be awaiting them at the hustings.