Nearly a month and half after Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and a fortnight after President’s rule was imposed in the state, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament Thursday that the central government will have no objection if the Election Commission wants to hold assembly polls in J&K along with Lok Sabha elections. He said the Centre was ready to provide security forces whenever the Election Commission holds elections.
His statement came after a two-hour debate in Rajya Sabha — it was on a resolution to approve the December 19 proclamation imposing President’s rule — which saw Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley crossing swords, each accusing the other’s party of “alienating” the people of the state. Opposition parties panned the Governor’s November 21 action of dissolving the assembly and asked the government to spell out when it plans to hold elections in the state.
Will thaw chill but security the issue
The Centre’s announcement on elections in J&K is expected to thaw the political chill in the Valley that set in after the break-up of the BJP-PDP coalition in June and imposition of President’s rule last month. The PDP has seen high-profile exits and the NC is reaching out to new entrants. But with little let-up in violence and the abysmal turnouts in local body polls, the challenge clearly is security and mobilisation.
“It is the Election Commission’s job to hold elections. But I want to assure the House that we will not come in the way (of holding elections). We are willing to provide whatever security forces the Election Commission wants,” Singh said.
When Azad asked whether the government was willing to hold assembly elections along with Lok Sabha polls, he said “yadi Election Commission chahta hai toh hamari sarkar ko koi aapati nahin hogi (If the Election Commission desires, our government will have no objection).
Rajya Sabha then passed with a voice vote a resolution moved by Singh, seeking approval of the House for imposition of President’s rule.
Initiating the debate, Azad tore into the BJP and the government, accusing them of alienating the people of J&K over the last four-and-half years. Jaitley and Singh hit back with the Finance Minister turning to history, recalling 1947.
Azad said the BJP’s “misinformation” campaign over the last 60 years acted like fuel in alienating the people of J&K. “You built your empire across the country by abusing Kashmir and Kashmiris… it was not in the name of development but on the basis of hatred,” he said.
He said former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have found a solution to the Kashmir problem but he did not have the support of his party. He said there were “internal contradictions… he (Vajpayee) wanted to climb up and you were pulling him down.”
Azad said he had warned the BJP — when it decided to form a government in the state with the PDP — that it was a “red rag” for the people of Kashmir. “I have been proven true… the result of you decision is for all to see… militancy has increased… we had taken it to zero levels… ceasefire violations have gone up and now the security situation is at its worst, like what it was in the 1990s… economic activity, handicraft activity, all are nil and there is no employment generation,” he said.
“And the biggest gift that you have given to Jammu: Hindus are identifying themselves as Hindus and Muslims are identifying themselves as Muslims… that was never the case before… I grew up in Jammu… this disease you have given as a dowry… and now that you have failed on all fronts, you simply walk away… we have seen regional parties withdrawing support to a national party… but you withdrew support and then you tried to break the National Conference, PDP and the Congress… that is why you kept the assembly under suspended animation… why didn’t you conduct elections? You took four months and tried to break (the parties),” he said.
Intervening, Jaitley hit back, saying J&K is the only state where India lost its sovereignty. “The delay in sending troops, announcing unilateral ceasefire, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister getting to know about the situation very late… announcing it on radio first and that too at a time when our troops were advancing… the history began there… It will be a mockery of history if you put the blame for all that also on Rajnath Singh,” he said, slamming successive Congress governments at the Centre for their handling of Kashmir.
He said the assurance for plebiscite that the leaders of the Congress gave at that time “hung around our neck like an albatross… that was your view”. Jaitley said successive Congress governments mishandled Kashmir and referred to the midnight arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in the 1950s to the dismissal of Farooq Abdullah as Chief Minister in the 1908s which, he said, had alienated the people.
“How were the 1955, ‘62 and ‘67 elections conducted… you ruled the state with that kind of elections… and you are saying that alienation happened in the last four years…” he said, adding it was the Congress which had sowed the seeds of alienation.
Jaitley said, “when history will decide which point of view on Kashmir — whether it was Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s viewpoint or that of Jawaharlal Nehru — was right, then you will have a big problem.”
Singh too rejected the Opposition criticism that the BJP’s “unnatural alliance” with the PDP had alienated the people. He said the government’s intentions should not be doubted when it comes to the imposition of Governor’s rule and President’s rule in the state.
“The allegations being hurled against us… that the situation has been created because of our mistakes and that there was a conspiracy not to allow any other party to form the government… I want to say that our intentions cannot be doubted… there was no conspiracy,” he said.
Singh said the BJP is not responsible for the sense of alienation which has been there since independence. “It was because of that sense of alienation that India was divided into two… we were not a force then,” he said.