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Reject Article 370 as Kashmir’s connect to India:Jaitley

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New Delhi, April 15: Calling the issue of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir the biggest challenge before India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said it cannot be solved until the “failed obsolete thought” of Article 370 as a “loose constitutional connect” between the state and the rest of the country is rejected.

He said the challenge needs a fresh approach and only a strong government and a leader with clarity alone was capable of resolving the Kashmir issue.

 

Referring to the past Congress governments, he said the challenge cannot be resolved by those who created the problem and who believe that a “loose constitutional connect” will lead to integration.

He added that it could only be done through a fresh approach “which is uncompromising on terror” and “committed to total integration” and through “reversal of the historical blunders”.

Targeting the Congress, Jaitley said it was identified with the creation of the problem itself by “wishing the issue away” when Pakistan did not reconcile to Kashmir being a part of India.

“Instead of working for total integration, the party wanted a loose and liberal constitutional connect between rest of the nation and the state under an erroneous impression that such an arrangement would further the cause of integration,” he said in a Facebook post.

“Article 370 was disastrously thought out as a constitutional connect between rest of the country and the state. Article 35A was surreptitiously introduced in 1954. It catered to a separatist psyche and legitimised discrimination,” he added.

Jaitley said militant supported from across the border “can’t be fought either with velvet gloves or a policy of appeasement”.

“This challenge can obviously be resolved with a fresh approach which is uncompromising on terror, uncompromising in its determination to enforce the rule of law and committed to total integration. A strong government and a leader with clarity alone is capable of resolving the Kashmir issue,” he said.

Targeting National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he said the two regional parties were, of late, more strident in advocating secession of the state if firm measures are taken.

Development in the state has suffered due to terror and both democracy and secularism had been a casualty in the valley, he added.

The BJP leader said the people of Jammu and Kashmir have to be at the centre point in India’s strategy and they should get opportunities, peace and security of life, and freedom from terror.

“A state free from terror itself will imply much lesser security presence.”

Jaitley also attacked the opposition on the issue of Pulwama suicide bombing and Balakot strike saying whenever the two issues were raised, the opposition parties were on the back-foot and questioned why national security and militancy were being made into subject matters of electoral debates.

“India’s opposition argues that elections have to be fought on the ‘real issues’ and not on the issues of national security. It is my endeavour to argue that national security and militancy are the most important issues which concern India in the long run. All other challenges are capable of early resolution,” he said.

Jaitley said that poverty was declining at a fast pace, urbanisation was increasing, the size of middle class was growing and the economy was expanding, which would result in creation of jobs.

“These are all challenges that India is capable of capturing and resolving over the next decade or two,” he said asking the question on where India stood on the issue of national security and terror.

He said peace was established in Punjab, Northeast and in the South, and that the operation of Maoist terror was restricted and narrow.

“As the economic profile of India move upwards, it will become extremely difficult for the Maoists to sustain their violent movement to overthrow democracy. The security ‘might’ of the State is far superior to handle this movement. The same, however, can’t be said of what is happening in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism emanating from region,” he added.


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Low voter turnout may hit Mufti’s prospects in Anantnag

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Srinagar: With the overall voter turnout in the first of the three-phase polling in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency settling below 10 per cent till 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the fate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti hangs precariously in the balance in what was till recently her party’s bastion.

The bad news for Mufti is that voters in her ancestral town Bijbehara and the neighbouring Anantnag showed very little interest to come out and join the poll process.

Mufti won this Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and resigned in 2016 to become the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir following the death of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

 

She later won the 2016 bypoll for the Anantnag Assembly seat to get elected to the 87-member state legislative Assembly. Anantnag Assembly seat fell vacant due to Mufti Senior’s death in 2016.

In contrast to the less than 3 per cent voter turnout in Bijbehara and Anantnag segments that have traditionally been PDP strongholds, the turnout has been good in Dooru, Kokernag and Shangus segments where her Congress rival, Ghulam Ahmad Mir has strong voter support.

The voter turnout has also been good in the Pahalgam segment, but it is believed that the PDP and the National Conference (NC) would cut almost equally here, again giving an edge to the Congress candidate.

Voting will be held in Kulgam district of the constituency on April 29 and in Shopian and Pulwama districts on May 6 and the voter turnout in these remaining districts may make or mar the electoral prospects of the PDP President.

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Polling begins on very dull note in Anantnag

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Anantnag, Apr 23 Polling began on a very dull note in the first of three phase polling in six of the 16 Assembly segments of Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency (PC) in south Kashmir amidst unprecedented security arrangements following boycott and strike called by Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) on Tuesday.

Majority polling stations, particularly in the main town Anantnag, have yet to receive first voter while in the outskirts and villages people, including some women, could be seen moving towards polling stations.

However, the authorities express hope that polling will pick up as the day progress since it is cold outside.

 

Polling started at 0700 hrs at all the 714 polling stations in the constituency, spread over four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian, where 5,29,256 electorate, including 2,57,540 females are eligible to elect their representative from among the 18 candidates, including former chief minister and president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief G A Mir, and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi and BJP Mohammad Yousuf.

Polling conclude at 1600 hrs, two hours before the normal timing elsewhere in the state, where polling continued from 0700 hrs to 1800 hrs. This decision, officials said, was taken for security reasons.

The next two phases in the constituency would be held in Kulgam district on April 29 while on May 6, polling will be held in Shopian and Pulwama districts.

Returning Officer (RO) for Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency (PC), Khalid Jahangir, told UNI that all arrangements, including three-tier security, had been put in place for conducting the elections in secure and peaceful manner.

Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) for polling stations with regard to power supply, furniture, water supply and other required facilities had been put in place, he said adding the ramp facilities have also been ensured at the polling stations. Webcasting will be made at 28 polling locations in Anantnag district, he said.

“The district has 5,29,256 electorate, including 2,57,540 females, 2102 service electors (including 11 female) and 11 transgender voters. For smooth polling the ECI has setup 714 polling stations in the district,” he said.

He said Kokernag Assembly segment has the highest number of 93,694 voters, including 44,948 females, while Doru has the lowest 78,653 electorate, including 37,889 females.

“Assembly segment Bijbehara has 93,289 voters, including 46,222 females, Shangus 88374 voters (43,010 females), Pahalgam 86,614 (42,498 females) and Anantnag 86,530 (42,973 females),” Mr Jahangir said.

He said the highest 46,222 female voters are in the Assembly segment of Bijbehara.

“Among the assembly segments of Anantnag district, Shangus has a total of 1,031 service electors which is highest in the district,” he added.

Mr Jahangir said besides state police, Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF) personnel in strength had been deployed at polling stations to provide a secure atmosphere to voters to cast their ballots. Besides security forces already engaged in anti militancy operations would be there to prevent any violent incident.

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Pakistan’s nuclear bombs are not kept for Eid either: Mehbooba hits back at Modi

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Peoples Democratic Party chief and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bragging about India’s nuclear capability. She accused Modi of “stooping low” and lowering the country’s political discourse.

On Sunday, Modi had said that his government had refused to be intimidated by Pakistan’s nuclear threats and that with the Balakot air strike, India had given Pakistan a “fitting reply”. “What do we have then? Have we kept our nuclear bomb for Diwali?” Modi had said at a rally in Barmer district of Rajasthan. Modi had said that his government had made the terrorists afraid from across the border and the results of it were visible as there were no blasts anywhere in the country in the last five years.

On Monday, Mufti said, “If India hasn’t kept nuclear bomb for Diwali, it’s obvious Pakistan’s not kept theirs for Eid either. Don’t know why PM Modi must stoop so low & reduce political discourse to this.”

 

Addressing reporters in Kulgam, Mufti once again criticised Modi for his remark. “What Pakistan [nuclear bombs] possesses would not be saved for Eid either. We are evenly placed in this matter,” she said.

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