By Farooq Wani
Formation of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) was announced soon after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A on 5 August 2019. Comprising National Conference (NC), People Democratic Party (PDP), People’s Conference (PC), Awami Ittehad (AI), Awami National Conference (ANC), CPI(M) and J&K People’s Movement (JKPM) the PAGD is fighting for the restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.
However, it formally took shape after the release of mainstream politicians who had been placed under detention after special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked and it was on October 15, that NC chief Farooq Abdullah made this announcement after an all-party meet at his residence in Srinagar.
On Wednesday, the J&K poll panel announced an eight-phase election to 20 district development councils (DDCs) in the Union Territory beginning November 28 and concluding on December 22. In a significant development, the PAGD on Saturday announced that it had decided to unitedly contest these elections, which according to political pundits is a welcome step. “All of a sudden Centre sprang a surprise and announced to complete the entire process within one month,” PAGD spokesperson Sajad Lone told media persons after culmination of the alliance’s two-hour meeting.
Other leaders of the group said this space is too sacred to be left to invaders to invade and as such they would not allow it to be marauded and invaded.
BJP has termed PAGD a day dreamer’s group adding that leaders of declaration are exploiting people of J&K through a bundle of lies.
Thus, if the PDP and NC wish to showcase their public support in Kashmir, then they have no other option but to prove the same through an election but with the Abdullahs and Ms Mufti saying that they will not re-enter the political arena till Article 370 is reintroduced and statehood is restored, they have created a Catch 22 situation for themselves. If they decide to continue to boycott the electoral process it will get them nowhere and this approach will create an existential crisis for both the NC and PDP, something both parties wouldn’t want. It is this factual scenario that has pushed NC and PDP to jump into the electoral process of J&K through the DDC polls.
These political parties have been forced to take this decision because they have to show strength on ground otherwise the political space will shrink for them and any boycott of polls will prove to be disaster for them as they will have to face political death. Another main reason to contest the DDC polls in JK is that BJP will be fielding candidates in every part of J&K and if NC and PDP boycott polls over the Article 370 issue, then the BJP will emerge victorious unopposed. Boycotting the panchayat and urban bodies polls held in 2018 is a glaring example.
In previous Panchayat and Municipal polls political parties especially NC, and PDP fielded proxy candidates to counter BJP with the result there was uncertainty. Landslide win for the combination “will be an appropriate response to the BJP on the disapproval of its August 5 robbery by the only stakeholders, the people of J&K” as PAGD thinks.
Time and again these politicians who have nothing meaningful to offer to the people of JK and it seems that they will once again try to befool denizens by playing with the emotions and sentiments of gullible people of J&K. Let us not forget that NC ruled the erstwhile state of J&K for more than 30 years promising ‘autonomy’, while PDP assured ‘self-rule’ to the people.
Unfortunately, J&K neither got ‘autonomy’ nor ‘self-rule’ and both have done hardly anything as far as working for the common interests of denizens due to which development and prosperity have remained a distant dream.
Every party in J&K makes big promises to the people but fails to deliver when it comes to power. So, showing greener pastures to innocent people where there are none is not a genuine approach. Instead, mainstream politicians have in the past not only eroded the special status of JK but also destroyed generations by sending out mixed signals. The people of J&K thus need to be extremely watchful and not fall into a trap set by politicians in order to further their own vested interests! It seems contesting polls is the main agenda for PAGD they are hardly bothered for restoration of Art 370 and statehood to JK.
Hurriyat, which has lost its essence in Kashmir due to a variety of reasons ranging from infighting to financial irregularities has in the past been giving boycott calls but rather than enhance its own image, this has benefitted certain mainstream political parties especially PDP. Now it will be interesting to see which way the separatist conglomerate goes at this juncture.
So, let’s wait and watch!