Srinagar: National Conference president and former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday claimed that his party would sweep the Assembly elections whenever they were held in Jammu and Kashmir.
He was attending a parliamentary outreach programme for strengthening Parliamentary Raj Institutions (PRIs) being held at Sher e Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) here.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Abdullah said NC was the “biggest party” in J&K and woud form the government after the polls are held.
The NC leader said he “regrets” his party’s decision of not participating in the 2018 panchayat polls. Both arch-rivals NC and Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had announced back then they would not contest in the polls due to apprehension over the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government’s plan of tinkering the region’s so called ‘special status’. Their apprehension proved right on August 5, 2019, when the Centre abrogated Article 370.
The octogenarian leader also heads the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a group of regional political parties that oppose the abrogation of Article 370 and demand its restoration.
On Sunday, during a press conference in Srinagar, J&K People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone had claimed that the elections may happen in March or April next year.
"As a political party, we have to be ready for the elections as elections can happen anytime and given the present situation and Delhi's mindset, they give surprises. Someday we might get up in the morning (and hear) that election notification has been issued. That's what is happening nowadays, but we are ready for elections," he said.
Farooq Abdullah’s comments come a day after Apni Party, led by former PDP minister Altaf Bukhari, accused the PAGD leadership of vacillating around the issue of Article 370.
“We see that PAGD on one hand is speaking about ‘No compromise’ on Article 370 and 35A, but at the same time it becomes a signatory to Opposition memorandums that don’t even mention the restoration of these special laws,” Bukhari said in a statement.
Bukhari also accused the PAGD for ignoring what he termed as “the fast changing geo-political dynamics” in the region.
Impact of Afghan Situation
Speaking on the sidelines on Tuesday, Farooq Abdullah also shared his apprehensions of a possible impact on the region’s political situation in the aftermath of the swift takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Our neighbouring countries are in distress. I don’t know which country will face more impact of the Taliban takeover. We have Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Russia as our neighbours. Who knows whether the US would face more impact from the Taliban takeover? I can’t say, but yes, there will surely be an impact of the Afghan situation,” he said.
The PAGD leader expressed his discernment on the day when the last batch of US forces left Kabul ending the 20-year-old bloody war in Afghanistan. The US government, however, has left the war-torn region under Taliban’s control, a development many consider is unfavourable to the Indian establishment, especially in the backdrop of a stalemate in Kashmir. Many parties, including NC, fear a backlash.
The change of guard in Afghanistan many say may throw challenges but, also open a ‘window of opportunity’ for some in Jammu and Kashmir. The political parties, say some observers, have learnt their lesson after taking a hit following the decision taken on August 5, 2019. But, many have been raising the issue of a possible spillover from the Afghan conflict with a renewed confidence.
“I do not see any renewed confidence but, the mainstream parties might use the Afghan situation as a political rhetoric where they would talk about a threat and that India should not alienate people in Kashmir that could further deteriorate the situation,” Iymon Majid, who teaches political science at the University of Kashmir, said.
There are concerns in the security establishment as well. As the US pulled out the last of its troops from Afghanistan on Tuesday, two militants were reportedly killed in Poonch area of Jammu on Monday who, the Indian Army claimed, were part of an infiltration bid along the Line of Control (LoC). This is only the second such known attempt by suspected militants this year which violated the renewed India and Pakistan ceasefire.
A senior army official told NewsClick ahead of the final US take-off that such violations were likely to gain momentum in the aftermath of the US withdrawal in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“There is a possibility that the ceasefire agreement might not hold up once the US troops leave Afghanistan completely,” the officer said.