Kolkata, July 29: National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said the Congress has to be the “backbone” of the opposition unity with its chief Rahul Gandhi at the forefront of the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to oust the BJP from power at the Centre.
This, however, does not minimise the responsibility of regional leaders who are strong in their own states, Abdullah told PTI here in an interview.
“The Congress has to be the backbone as the lion’s share of seats of the opposition in one particular party will have to be from it as there are a number of states where there will be direct contest between the Congress and the BJP,” he said.
“At the end of the day to form a government at the Centre you need 272 seats, which the regional outfits are not going to get. You will be looking towards the Congress to come close to the 100-seat mark, if not cross it to form a non-BJP government,” he said.
Abdullah met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here on Friday and held talks on the probable opposition front.
Efforts to cobble up an opposition front is gaining momentum, but a section of leaders of regional parties are not keen on letting the Congress lead it and are propagating a non-BJP and non-Congress front.
On the issue of Rahul Gandhi being the face of the opposition, Abdullah said he being the president of the single largest opposition party was expected to be at the forefront of the election campaign.
“Obviously, one will expect Rahul Gandhi to be at the forefront of leading the election campaign in 2019 but at the same time Sonia Gandhi is the leader of the UPA. Therefore to the best possible extent one will hope Sonia Gandhi will also be part of the campaign,” he said.
Refuting aspersions on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership capabilities, Abdullah cited the example of Congress’ role in forming the government in Karnataka and said he had shown a lot of maturity on how the party was orienting itself.
“He is president of the Congress party. If anybody has any doubt about his leadership quality then it has to be from his party. His party has absolutely no problem with him, then why should anybody else have objections?” Abdullah said.
“Rahul Gandhi has shown a lot of maturity on how the Congress is orienting. He is a leader in his own right and he has every right to be there,” the NC leader said.
He, however, maintained that the issue of the “face of opposition” is being brought up to divide the opposition unity. “Individual regional parties are strong in their own states.”
Mamata Banerjee will lead the fight against the BJP in West Bengal, while in Bihar, the anti-BJP face will be that of Lalu Prasad (RJD) supported by the Congress. In UP, the faces will be Aklhilesh Yadav (SP) and Mayawati (BSP) and in Tamil Nadu, it will be Karunanidhi (DMK) and his son M K Stalin, he said.
“The Congress by virtue of its pan-India presence will have greater responsibility, but that’s not to minimise the responsibility of other (regional) leaders. They would play a vital role. It’s very important that we fight tactfully and tactically and this is the way forward,” he said.
Abdullah, who was in the city to take part in ‘Think Federal Conclave’, said NC was very much a part of the grouping of regional parties opposed to the BJP.
“I would like them (grouping) to have clear agenda regarding all the issues that matter to the country ranging from creation of jobs, demonetisation, the way economy has been handled. And obviously they have to look at both facets of Jammu and Kashmir. One is Pakistan as our (India) relations with it impact the situation in J&K and secondly, internally all the problems that have happened in the state after 2014 should be addressed by it,” he said.
Speaking on the present situation in Kashmir, Abdullah said the dismissal of the Mehbooba Mufti government by the Centre showed how the state was “mishandled” since 2015.
“The present situation in the valley is not at all conducive for holding elections,” he said.
Listing steps that needed to be taken to restore peace in Kashmir, he said the alleged efforts of horse trading of PDP MLAs should immediately stop.
“The J&K Assembly needs to be dissolved rather than simply suspended. Then the governor needs to work towards reducing the levels of violence so that some semblance of peace is restored.
Speaking on the prevailing situation in the country, he said attempts were being made to vitiate the atmosphere of communal harmony.
The way the entire community, particularly the Muslim community, was sought to be vilified is a matter of “grave concern,” he said, adding that when these were stray voices from the people who didn’t matter it was understandable to an extent.
“But now you have elected representatives from the ruling party (BJP) who are espousing very strong anti-Muslim sentiments and trying to spread that in the country, which is a matter of grave concern,” Abdullah said.
Zakir Musa killing: Shutdown, restrictions on Day 2 as well
Srinagar, May 25: A complete shutdown was Saturday observed in Kashmir on the second as well against the killing of Zakir Musa, the militant ‘commander’ and chief of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), who was shot dead during an encounter in Dadsara, Tral early Friday morning.
Authorities also continued placing curbs in parts of the valley to foil any protests or clashes. Following the orders from the divisional administration, all educational institutes across Kashmir remained closed for the second consecutive day as well.
High-speed mobile internet continued to remain suspended in most districts of Kashmir although 2G- speed internet service was restored in Budgam, Ganderbal and Srinagar on Saturday afternoon.
A police official said the curbs on the movement of people were in force in parts of Srinagar, Kulgam and Pulwama.
Train service on the Baramulla-Banihal line also remained suspended, the official said.
“Curfew continued to remain imposed in parts of the Kashmir valley today (Saturday) as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order,” the official said.
In Srinagar, he added, strict restrictions were in place in Nowhatta, Rainawari, Khanyar, Safakadal and M R Gung areas, while partial restrictions were in force in Maisuma and Kralkhud areas.
The official said that government forces including police and paramilitary was deployed in strength in other parts of the valley to avoid any untoward incident.
Meanwhile, most of the shops, fuel stations and other business establishments remained shut in the valley following the strike call by Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani against the killing of Zakir and a civilian Zahoor Ahmad, a resident of Naira Pulwama – who was killed allegedly by government forces on Thursday.
Public transport was also off the roads.
Zakir, one of the most-wanted militant ‘commanders’ in Kashmir, was killed in the encounter at Dadsara Tral after forces launched a search operation late Thursday evening following specific information about the presence of militants there.
His killing led to spontaneous shutdown and protests in the valley.
Zakir’s death marks end of ‘radical jihad’: DGP
Srinagar, May 25: Police Saturday said the killing of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) Chief Zakir Musa has ended the “cult and concept of radical jihad” and Zakir was the last militant of “ISIS-influenced ideology”.
“Zakir Musa had created a new concept of radical jihad and militancy in Kashmir. He was the last militant of such radicalised ideology. With his killing, security forces have eliminated the last such militant who was influenced by ISIS kind of militancy in Kashmir,” Director General of Police, Dilbagh Singh was quoted saying by a local news agency.
The DGP said that youth should understand that “radical ideology or other kind of militancy leads to death and destruction.”
“Some youth were influenced by the radical ideology of Zakir Musa and we would see youth waving ISIS flags in Downtown around Jamia Masjid on Fridays. His killing is the death of radical concept of Jihad in Kashmir. Any radical idea of militancy is against the interests of youth and other people of the state,” the DGP said.
The DGP said that he appreciates and is grateful to the people of Kashmir for “maintaining peace and calm in the last three days.”
Zakir was killed in Dadsara village of Tral in Pulwama district by government forces in a gunfight during the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.
His killing triggered protests at several places with authorities imposing restrictions and Hurriyat calling for shutdown in Kashmir.
‘Minorities have been cheated, have to stop it: Modi
New Delhi, May 25: A bow before the Constitution of India was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first action after being unanimously elected the National Democratic Alliance’s leader as he set the agenda for the next term of his government in the Central Hall of Parliament on Saturday.
In his address, Modi reached out to minorities, who he said have been “cheated” by the opposition and called for the lawmakers to earn their trust and put an end to the deception immediately.
“We have worked for sabka saath, sabka vikas, now we have to strive for sabka vishwas,” the PM said while addressing NDA MPs in parliament’s Central Hall Saturday evening.
“The way the poor have been cheated, the minorities have been deceived the same way. It would have been good if their education, their health had been in focus. I expect from you in 2019 that you would be able to make a hole in that deception. We have to earn their trust,” PM Modi said.
The PM, who is likely to be sworn in next week, said this time in the general elections, people voted for pro-incumbency.
“There was pro-incumbency wave in this election, its result was a positive mandate,” the PM told NDA leaders, and added, “The 2019 elections have helped bring down walls, connect hearts.”
The BJP scored 303 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha in the national election and along with its allies, won a remarkable tally of 353.
The formality of allies naming PM Modi as the undisputed leader of the NDA was carried out in the Central Hall of parliament amid loud applause, desk-thumping and chants of “Modi, Modi”.
Top alliance leaders, including Janata Dal United chief Nitish Kumar, Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and Akali Dal’s Parkash Singh Badal were in the meeting.
On the dais, senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi flanked PM Modi.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal moved a resolution to elect PM Modi as the leader of the NDA Parliamentary Party which was supported by JDU chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan and other leaders of the NDA.
“The people have accepted Narendra Modi experiment again from their heart. I want to say this about Modiji, whom I have worked with – for 20 years, he has not taken even a day off. He has worked 18 hours a day.”
On Friday, the council of ministers led by PM Modi submitted their resignation which was accepted by President Kovind, paving way for formation of new government.
Accepting PM Modi’s resignation, the president had had asked them to continue as a caretaker until the formation of a new government.