Jammu: National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Monday, January 8, said his party is setting up an election board to select candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing a public meeting on the outskirts of Jammu, Abdullah asserted that the people of the union territory will be taken into confidence before finalising the names.
While the general elections are scheduled for April-May, the Supreme Court in December last year unanimously upheld the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 bestowing special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and directed that elections to the assembly be held by September 30, 2024.
“We have decided to set up an election board because the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are around the corner to decide the candidates but not without taking you into confidence,” the NC chief told the gathering at Baran village in Bhalwal block.
“You have to decide who is going to serve you and address your issues and we need your support,” Abdullah added.
He said his party has made constituency incharges across Kashmir and the same will be done in Jammu by January 20 so that the people can contact and raise their issues with them.
In an apparent reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said “they” are accusing the NC of sympathising with Pakistan and having links with terrorists but never said anything about 1,500 ministers, leaders and workers of the party getting killed by terrorists.
When the Jammu and Kashmir assembly in Srinagar was attacked in October 2001, the terrorists were looking for me, Abdullah said.
“I had left the assembly just five minutes before the attack to meet the governor we were Indians, we are Indians and will die Indians. Had we wished to go with Pakistan, we would have done it in 1947 and nobody would have stopped us,” the National Conference leader said.
He said the last Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh himself had reached an agreement with both India and Pakistan, seeking time to take a call as he was neither willing to go to Pakistan nor India and was interested in independent Jammu and Kashmir.
“Then Pakistan raided the region If Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (NC founder) and his party had not been with him (Maharaja), we would have never been a part of India,” Abdullah said.
He also said “some parties” were misleading the people on various pretexts like a legislation which talked about allowing those who had gone to Pakistan to return and resettle in Jammu and Kashmir.
Abdullah said he has always said that nobody is going to return from Pakistan and it is the prerogative of the Indian government to allow them back but the people were misled and seeds of hatred were sowed in their hearts.
He also referred to the abrogation of Article 370 granting special status to J&K and said it was neither India nor Pakistan but the Maharaja who introduced certain laws in 1927 to safeguard the land and jobs of his poor subjects from the natives of neighbouring Punjab.
Abdullah also questioned the appointment of outsiders in top positions in the police and universities in Jammu and Kashmir. He said when nobody was willing to fight elections in 1996, it was the NC under his leadership which came forward for the people.
“It was a time when they were afraid of visiting Kashmir or the border areas of the Jammu region, fearing terrorist attacks. We ensured all closed schools in villages were open within one year, reconstructed 700 small and major bridges, placed doctors in hospitals and worked for all sections of the society without any discrimination,” he said.
He said the people have no access to the civil secretariat as the bureaucrats are not answerable to the public.
“They have stopped the darbar move (a bi-annual practice under which the civil secretariat was functioning six months each in Srinagar and Jammu) ruining the business of the traders who are sitting idle nowadays due to lack of business.
“A large number of people used to move between the two capital cities with the civil secretariat, strengthening internal bonds and creating business opportunities,” Abdullah said.
The NC leader also criticised the Jammu and Kashmir administration over supplying electricity to Rajasthan from the Rattle Power Project for 40 years and said the decision is not in the favour of the people who are facing an acute shortage of electricity.
“They have promised the people to provide 24×7 electricity but where is the power? Our cities and villages are reeling under darkness but they are selling electricity to Rajasthan,” he said.