Srinagar: In an interview with The Hindu, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stated that rather than having boycott the recently concluded Municipal polls in which the Valley had witnessed a low turnout, his party, National Conference (NC) had ‘stayed away from it’.
Citing lack of clarity on behalf of the Government of India on their stance regarding the much discussed Article 35-A and Article 370 as the reason for staying away, Omar pointed out that the linking of Panchayat and Urban Local Body (ULB) polls to the defence of Article 35-A in the Supreme Court of India led to the decision.
“We did not boycott the polls, we stayed away. There is a difference. The separatists stayed away and forced people to stay away. They used all sorts of methods to try and encourage people to stay away,” Omar said.
“We took the view that we are choosing not to participate, but we were not stopping people from participating or stopping others from filing candidatures or threatening them,” he added.
Referring to his father, Farooq Abdullah, the party president’s opposing stands that caused an uproar, Omar said that it was his personal choice and that he disagreed with him on ‘his perceived need to prove his patriotism’. He added that it was not the first time that he had said such things.
Clarifying that Panchayat polls were not party-based elections, he reiterated the party’s stance that they would not participate in the elections.
Referring to the Home minister of India, Rajnath Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik’s remarks expressing satisfaction on the voter turnout, Omar said the government of India was ignoring problems in the Kashmir Valley and other areas.
He said that despite the fact that there was no violence in the valley and yet the poll percentage was one to three was ‘deeply worrying’.
“In the face of violence, you could have said people were afraid to come out to vote. Barring my two workers being killed in Srinagar, there was no stone pelting on polling day, no attempt to ransack polling booths, no concerted efforts to attack the candidates or the campaign process,” he said.
He pointed out that it was therefore, the people’s choice, which was being ignored by GoI and expressed shock over the fact that ruling party BJP won in ‘volatile Sopore’ where the Congress had no candidates.
He said that the BJP has done everything wrong that they could have and cited examples like the ongoing tense relationship with Pakistan, non-existence of internal political dialogue and a ‘poor’ interlocutor who had not been made aware to Omar of the nature of his work and goals.
He added that the PDP-BJP party alliance ‘was a disaster from the start’.
On being inquired about BJP’s win in four South Kashmir districts, Omar likened it with sending him to the Olympics and keeping the rest of the lanes empty and observed that ‘winning because there is no opponent is not winning’.
When asked about the emerging new ‘third front‘ led by Sajad Lone and whether he was wary of it, Omar called Lone ‘a khandani politician like me’ and said he wasn’t wary of anybody emerging, since Lone was not a new face in the spectrum. However, the decision rested with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, he said.