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NC, PDP, Congress to decide on attending after intra-party deliberations

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Srinagar: The National Conference, PDP, Congress and the CPI(M) on Saturday said they will take a call on attending a meeting with the prime minister in Delhi after deliberations within their respective parties while the BJP expressed hope that all invitees will take part in the all-party deliberations.

Fourteen leaders of eight political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been invited to the meeting that will be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 24 to discuss the future course of action for the union territory.

The BJP and the Altaf Bukhari-led Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party have confirmed their participation in the meeting, while five — NC, PDP, Congress, Peoples Conference and CPI(M) — will take a call after intra-party deliberations. There was no immediate reaction available from Bhim Singh of the Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party.

The meeting — the first such exercise since the Centre announced the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its bifurcation into union territories in August 2019 — is likely to be attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders.

The PDP will hold a meeting on Sunday to discuss the invitation of the Centre to political parties of Jammu and Kashmir for talks, party president Mehbooba Mufti said on Saturday.

“There is no clear-cut agenda about the talks with New Delhi. However, I have asked my party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) for a meeting to discuss the same,” Mufti said.

Mufti, the last chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, who had an alliance government with the BJP from 2016 to 2018, said that the decision of whether to participate in the talks would be taken by the party.

“There is no agenda for the meeting but I was conveyed that the meeting is being called to review the general situation and how to take the political process forward. There is no clear-cut agenda,” she said.

A National Conference (NC) leader said, “The party president (Farooq Abdullah) received a phone call from Delhi today, inviting him for the meeting with the prime minister on June 24.”

He said the party will sit and discuss the invitation to the meeting over the course of the next couple of days.

“To participate or not in the meeting is a matter of discussion. The party leadership will sit soon and discuss the issue. But, at least, there is a realisation in Delhi now and this meeting is a good thing. Dialogue and democracy go hand to hand in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

The NC leader also said after the meeting of the party, the meeting of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is likely to take place to discuss the issue.

The PAGD is an alliance of some parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including the NC and the PDP, that was formed in the aftermath of the Centre’s August 2019 decisions.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said its chief G A Mir has also received an invitation for the meeting.

“The party shall take a view on the issue of participation in consultation with senior leadership in a couple of days,” Sharma said.

Earlier during the day, Mir said his party had yet not received any invitation from the Centre.

He, however, added such a step, if taken, was welcome as dialogue with stakeholders was the only way forward.

He said the Congress stand is crystal clear that wherever there is conflict, anger and a political or economic issue, dialogue is the only way forward in a democratic set up as was being followed by the Congress to resolve the problems in the country.

“Talk at any level, invite anyone, there should be peace, development and ample job opportunities for the youth. The Congress will appreciate this way of dealing by the Centre,” Mir said.

Asked what would be the agenda of the Congress for the conference, he said, “The Congress is a national party and if it gets an invitation, we will convey it to the national leadership. There will be a consultation so that we go to the roundtable with an appropriate agenda.”

Responding to another question about how he sees Modi’s outreach to political leadership in Jammu and Kashmmir, the Congress leader said it is always good.

“He should have done it right from the beginning, before the development on August 05, 2019. This is the way the government should function. We are disappointed and angry because we were not taken on board. The primary responsibility of Parliament is to frame laws but when the method of democracy is sidelined, questions are set to arise,” he said.

“The central government took an important decision regarding the Union territory but it would have been better had it waited for a popular government in the erstwhile state.

“In the absence of the state assembly, the central government should have convened an all-party-meeting to take all the stakeholders on board, such a situation (anger among masses) would have been avoided,” he said.

Mir, however, said it is better late than never. “If they have understood after two long years that peace in the region is imperative and the land and its people are part of the country, it is good.”

“As a national leader, the prime minister should see that if there is anger among the people in any part of the country, he should try to address the problem,” he said.

The Congress leader said if the conference materializes it is the same pattern initiated by former prime minister Manmohan Singh during the first UPA government at the Centre and taken forward by BJP leader and former prime minister A B Vajayee, who had once said that there were some issues which should be resolved outside the constitution of the country, and attracted praise from all sections of the people.

Mir said both sides, the government and participants, should attend the proposed conference with an open heart to take Jammu and Kashmir towards peace, progress and prosperity for the next 200 years.

“If Modi Sahib has taken an initiative, both, he and the participants, should sit on the table with an open heart and away from the static position. In such a situation, there is a possibility that something which is far better than the previous arrangement can emerge,” he said.

Without naming anyone, Mir said some politicians started talking of extension o f Article 371 and 372 to Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, but the participants should give it a consideration to reach for such a solution that can last for the next 200 years and guide the youth and people to prosperity.

Another invitee, senior CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami, said he would discuss the issue of the participation in the meeting with his party before taking a final call on it.

The CPI(M) leader, who is also the spokesman of the PAGD, said the meeting is scheduled at 3 pm on June 24.

Pertinently, in the District Development Council elections last year, the PAGD surged way ahead of the BJP and its allies, including the JKAP, by bagging 110 seats out of 280 with the National Conference emerging stronger with 67 seats within the alliance. The BJP was the single largest party with 75 seats.

A Peoples Conference leader said the party leadership will sit together on Sunday or the day after to take a decision on whether to participate in the meeting or not.

JKAP chief Bukhari said, “We will go to attend the meeting. We have always believed in dialogue and we are committed to it and committed to our promises of restoring the democratic rights and the identity of the people of J&K.”

He said the party has been able to achieve its promises of land and job rights for the domiciles of the union territory and “we believe, the statehood should be restored as well”.

According to officials, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reached out to these leaders to invite them to the meeting.

Among those invited are four former chief ministers — Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.

Four former deputy chief ministers of the erstwhile state — Congress leader Tara Chand, People’s Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, and BJP leaders Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta — too have been invited to the meet.

In addition, CPI(M) leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari, Sajad Gani Lone of the People’s Conference, J&K Congress chief G A Mir, BJP’s Ravidner Raina, and Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh have been invited to the meeting.

The J&K BJP on Saturday said it is confident that all the Jammu and Kashmir leaders invited to a meeting with the prime minister in Delhi to discuss the future course of action for the union territory will attend the “important” deliberation.

BJP Jammu and Kashmir unit president Ravinder Raina, who is among the invitees, said the meeting convened by the prime minister is in accordance with the wishes of heads of various political parties who have been seeking time from him and demanding such a meeting for a long time.

“The leaders of all political parties of J&K are meeting the prime minister in Delhi on June 24 and I have also received an invitation from the Prime Minister’s Office. All parties meeting is being convened in special circumstances and there was also a demand from various political parties for such a meeting with regard to J&K,” Raina said.

The BJP leader said he is confident that leaders of all political parties would take part in the meeting.

“All invitees should take part in this important meeting for the better future of Jammu and Kashmir. The prime minister is there to hear them,” he said, adding though he was not aware of the agenda of the meeting but one can raise public issues.

He said the BJP is promise-bound to restore statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

“The delimitation exercise is underway and once the commission submits its report, the Election Commission will take a decision about the holding of assembly polls in J&K. Ours is a democratic country and an elected government has its own importance as it is accountable to the public,” he said.

He said the BJP is confident of forming the next government in Jammu and Kashmir “with its own chief minister given the developmental work carried out by the government under the leadership of Modi and the hard work of the local unit of the BJP to mitigate the problems of the people, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.” (With PTI inputs)

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