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The promises they make

Politicians usually make great promises during elections but forget them once they get elected. For their part, voters are eternal optimists who never learn from experience. Come elections, they believe that the politicians would improve their lives, knowing the fact that the very politicians are responsible for all the sufferings and agonies they go through. As the campaign for parliamentary elections o on in the state, election promises by the candidates and their campaigners are all time high. They are promising everything under the sun. National Conference leadership, the state’s key pro India party, is leading the election campaign with all the promises it knows would never be fulfilled. Still the party leaders have the audacity of fooling people. Even voters know that the NC promises are mere lies.

Former J&K Chief Minister and vice president of the National Conference, Omar Abdullah, the other day, claimed that his party would restore the nomenclature of the Prime Minister (for chief minister) and Sadre Riyasat (for governor). Omar was addressing an election rally of his party at Bandipora. He said, “Other states joined the Union of India without any conditions. However Jammu and Kashmir acceded with certain conditions. Those included our own identity, own constitution. At that time we had our own ‘Sadar-e-Riyasat’ and ‘Wazir-e-Azam’. Inshallah, we will bring that back too.” Farooq Abdullah, the NC patriarch and nominee for Srinagar seat, too, last month, said it voted to power his party would pass a resolution in the assembly on autonomy of the state.

It is a well known fact that the restoration of autonomy or pre-53 position to the state is an old demand of the National Conference but this, too, is a fact that the party had never been serious and sincere about the demand. Whether autonomy is a solution to the issue of Kashmir or not is a separate debate but the very question is whether National Conference (NC) is serious in what it demands. In an academic and intellectual debate NC’s point might have some takers but politically, the NC has lost all its moral right to make such demand as in 1975 the party’s godfather Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah compromised on the state’s political character and accepted power as it existed on the day. Had the NC leadership been sincere in their demand for pre-53 status to the state, the eruption of militancy had provided them a great chance to barter it with New Delhi. Government of India was desperate to ink a deal with any political party in Kashmir to get the state back on peace rails. Then Prime Minister Narsimha Rao in 1996 promised ‘anything short of Azadi’. “Sky is the limit”, he had said. But the NC leadership again faulted here and they accepted power against the wishes of common people without making any political or constitutional bargaining with government of India. The most humiliating moment for the party came in 2000 when its resolution on autonomy was summarily dismissed by then BJP-led government. The resolution was passed by the state legislature in a specially convened session in June that year. Dr Farooq Abdullah, as L K Advani has written in his autobiography, was asked to choice between autonomy and his son’s seat in the union ministry. Omar Abdullah was minister of state in the union government then. Farooq Abdullah opted for the continuation of his son as minister instead of insisting on autonomy.

Given the NC’s history of compromises on its political agenda it sounds quite bizarre when its leaders talk of autonomy. Farooq Abdullah has only but made mockery of himself when he said that if voted to power he would get autonomy resolution passed in the assembly. What he needs to explain is how his new resolution would make a difference. Farooq Abdullah owes explanation to the people of the state why he compromised on the resolution already passed by the state assembly. What if the central again rejects the resolution? Abdullah knows it well that his party was never serious in demanding autonomy. They raise the slogan of autonomy only to bargain power with the centre. The NC never talks of autonomy when in power. That is sufficiently known to the people of the state and the men and managers in New Delhi as well. It is sheer political hypocrisy to demand a thing the party does not believe in.