When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Opposition leaders from Jammu and Kashmir Monday, some in the delegation asked him to ensure that no party — in a clear reference to the BJP — turns Kashmir into a theatre for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh next year.
To their surprise, Modi told the leaders that he too agreed no party should milk the Kashmir situation for political gains, indicating he would also “talk to his party leaders”.
“When some of us expressed the view that there was a feeling that a party was possibly trying to score political points aimed at the Uttar Pradesh elections, the Prime Minister did not interrupt. He listened carefully. Later, he himself said no party should allow the situation in Kashmir to be used for political gains. He also indicated to us that he would talk to his party leaders also,” two leaders present at the meeting told The Indian Express.
The delegation led by former Chief Minister and National Conference president Omar Abdullah included, among others, state Congress president Ghulam Ahmed Mir, CPM legislator Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami.
On the observation by some delegates that the Mehbooba Mufti-led government was seen as being out-of-touch with the ground reality, reflected in the manner in which it has so far dealt with the situation, the Prime Minister is learnt to have remarked, without taking names, “Satta ka nasha nahin hona chahiye (One shouldn’t be obsessed with power).”
It was a “very receptive” Modi — “the Prime Minister of this country and not a hawkish BJP leader” as one of the delegates described him — who interacted with the delegation, listening to them keenly, taking extensive notes and inviting frank views.
“We had gone with little expectation, especially in view of the position taken by BJP leaders and the Centre on how to deal with protests continuing in Kashmir after the killing of (militant) Burhan Wani. But the Prime Minister was very receptive. He heard us patiently, took extensive notes. So much so that the meeting that was scheduled for just half hour stretched beyond 70 minutes. He even complimented the delegates for being frank,” one from the delegation said.
Citing an example, sources said, that the Prime Minister, while complimenting state Congress president Mir for suggesting that the way to deal with the situation was to rise about party politics, said, “Mir Sahib ki baat dil ko chhoo gayi (Mir’s words have touched my heart).”
Reached for comments, J&K Congress spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, who was part of the delegation, said: “The meeting was a positive development. There was a lot of frank exchange of ideas. We are satisfied that the Prime Minister’s Office immediately issued an official statement. He agreed with our suggestion that engagement with people should start as soon as possible as dialogue will help restore normalcy. We hope words will translate into action.”