Updated: May 9, 2022 8:32:57 am
While mainstream political parties in Kashmir have strongly opposed the Delimitation Commission’s final order, what’s curious is the response — or the lack of it — of the leadership of J&K’s largest mainstream political party, the Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference (NC).
While the party issued a statement on the Commission’s order, many saw it as being too mild. “The entire exercise has been blind to the universally accepted and practised criteria and principles with regards to electoral representation. However no amount of gerrymandering will save the BJP, and its proxies from the wrath of people,” the party said in a statement, adding that it would study its implications at the constituency level before making final its response.
The NC’s political rivals say studying minor implications of the Commission’s order is useless when the exercise has “disempowered and disenfranchised the Muslims of Kashmir”.
But it’s the silence of the top leadership, including president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah, that has led to much speculation. On Saturday, Farooq Abdullah, while speaking to reporters, refused to react to the order while saying the party has made its stand clear. On the backfoot, later in the day, the party issued a statement saying that Sr Abdullah has “reiterated the party’s stand on the Delimitation Commission”.
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In contrast, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti hit out at the Commission, accusing it of furthering the BJP’s agenda of “disempowering people of a particular community and region”.
“The Government of India has once again trampled upon the Constitution of the country by turning an electoral majority into a minority. The real design of the delimitation exercise is the demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir,” Mufti said.
Other parties, too, reacted sharply. The Congress said the Commission has “increased injustice and widened the gap of discrimination on various fronts” while the People’s Conference called it a “repeat of the past” discrimination against Kashmir.
Hitting out at the NC over its muted response, a political leader from a rival party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “They say we will study it at the constituency level. That is not the issue. The bigger issue is that the Muslims of Kashmir have been permanently disempowered and disenfranchised. In any case, the Delimitation Commission’s order has ensured that the leadership at the constituency level will be decimated. They want no credible voice to remain in Kashmir.”
The NC’s stand has led to murmurs within the party too.
A senior leader, however, said he would give the leadership the benefit of the doubt and that the silence could be tactical. “I am not sure why there is silence. But it could well be that the party knows the award of the Delimitation Commission can’t be reversed. So there is little benefit in making an issue out of it. It could only invite more wrath from the Centre in the form of ED and other agencies.”
The NC, however, brushed off the criticism that the party leadership was mild on the Commission order. “We made a strong case when we gave our recommendations to the Commission. Why do we need to reiterate everything all the time,” party spokesman Tanvir Sadiq told The Indian Express.
Sadiq said the party may come up with a detailed reaction after studying the order in detail. “We have said we will study it at the level of the constituency. It has been sent to all heads of the party at the district level. They will study the implications and then we may announce something. In any case, we have said that we don’t accept it. We have already challenged the Reorganisation Act in the Supreme Court and I think we have a strong case there”.
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