With Prime Minister Narendra Modi skirting any statement on Article 370, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday said BJP is shying away from committing on this contentious issue and is instead keeping its “feet in two boats” in Jammu and Kashmir which normally ends up “sinking”.
The Chief Minister, who is the working President of National Conference, also dubbed BJP as an “opportunist” party with whom he feels there cannot be any relationship.
Omar, who heads the coalition government with Congress, made these remarks when asked to comment on BJP talking in different voices on Article 370 that grants special status to J&K and avoiding making a direct statement on the issue during the assembly polls.
“Of course, they are avoiding to be caught in this issue because it will be a problem for them. In Jammu, Article 370 becomes a national issue, up in the hills in Jammu, they are silent about it and in Kashmir, their candidates say ‘if you touch Article 370, we will pick up the gun’…. So they are contradicting themselves depending on the place in the state where they happen to be,” he said in in an interview to PTI during the course of his hectic campaign for the Assembly elections.
“They don’t want to commit themselves one way or the other. But, again, while trying to put their feet in two boats, you will end up sinking,” the 44-year-old Omar said.
Modi, who was in Kishtawar of Jammu region on Saturday, refrained from making any political statement on Article 370.
The state is going for the a five-phase poll beginning November 25 and it is widely expected that the results on December 23 will throw up a hung assembly. But Omar refused to predict anything saying, “I never make predictions. It’s never been my habit. In school, I never predicted my exam results and I never predicted my election results.”
In the hindsight, Omar says he should have handled allies perhaps a “little more forcefully” than he did.
“The 2010 agitation, the summer agitation will haunt me. I think I could have talked or marketed our achievements and successes better than we did. I had hoped that we would have concluded all three tiers of local body elections but these also fell victim to coalition politics. On the whole, we did a lot of good (work) but there are areas which in hindsight one would have liked to change.”
However, when asked whether Congress, which entered into an alliance with the National Conference in 1987 and again in 2008, was an unreliable ally, Omar said, “look I have governed with them for six years. I don’t want to talk too much about Congress. For better or for worse, neither of us chose this alliance.
“This alliance was a necessity that came about on account of electoral results in 2008. I am not one having governed with them for six years and suddenly find faults with Congress party. We governed and we governed and that’s that.”
To a question whether BJP, which is on ascendancy in the entire country and is trying to make inroads into Kashmir, may end up polarising resulting in heightened communal tension in Jammu region and the Valley, Omar said, “Let us see. In the past, I know, attempts have been made to polarise the voters.
The 2008 Assembly elections took place in the shadow of highly polarising Amarnath land row agitation.
“This time we have not allowed any such designs to succeed. So I hope people will vote out of their free will and make the right choices. Whether the BJP tries to use polarising slogans in their campaign I guess depends on the areas where they are campaigning. But it will be highly counter-productive and very short-sighted to do something like that because it may give them momentary benefit in the elections but long term damage by polarising communities against each other here,” he said.
So how realistic was BJP Mission 44+ to come to power in J&K where the strength of the Assembly is 87, he said, “Everybody is. You show me a political party which is not targeting 44+. We just don’t call it mission 44+ but everyone is barring smaller parties like Panthers party and Peoples Conference.
“Out of the main four political parties, not a single political party is saying we are targeting less than 44 seats. So why is that the BJP is acting as if their Mission 44+ is something unique to their party. We are all targeting 44+.”
Asked whether he thought that BJP was trying to make deep inroads into the state in a big way, he said, “They are welcome to do that. The majority of their inroads will be at the cost of Congress.”