Politicking on autonomy
NC’s main objective is absolute power with autonomy slogan to hoodwink the people
Having failed to deliver during the past nearly four years in power in alliance with the Congress the National Conference is naturally concerned about its losing ground very fast with resentment growing against its misgovernance. With an eye on next elections due after two years the party leaders have again started raising the issue of greater autonomy for the State, which they had practically abandoned after gaining power. Except for the maverick Dr Kamal Mustafa, younger brother of the party patron Farooq Abdullah and the uncle of chief minister Omar Abdullah, no one in the party was so far talking about their favourite poll plank of the restoration of the State’s autonomy to pre’53 level. In fact the Omar-led government has been a willing party to the further erosion of its authority and powers, both in overt and covert manners, and virtually playing a subservient role to the Centre. New Delhi’s interference and directions even on the subjects falling under the state list has considerably increased during the past four years. Dr Mustafa Kamal has already stirred a hornet’s nest by his recent utterances, labeled as anti-India not only by the opposition but also by the Congress allies, and they have been gunning for his head. While Farooq Abdullah had described his brother’s statements as “ most irresponsible” the chief minister has gone further by impliedly describing not only his uncle but relatives as such as enemies. Latest to join the chorus for restoration of autonomy is another senior NC leader and member of Parliament Shariefuddin Shariq who said that both the issue of the restoration of eroded autonomy to 53 level and the unity of the divided state would be the party’s plank for the next elections.
For 22 long years the National Conference, under the platform of Plebiscite Front, worked and suffered for raising the slogans of plebiscite and the right to self-determination. New Delhi not only failed to hounour its commitments made to the people of the State when the State acceded to India under the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh and endorsed by Sheikh Abdullah, but also unilaterally eroded the autonomy of the State which enjoyed a special status in the Union. But in 1975 Sheikh Abdullah returned to power on the basis of status-quo and that too through backdoor without even seeking the people’s mandate. Nothing was done for the restoration of autonomy to pre’53 level as long as the tallest of Kashmiri leaders was alive.
However, the NC headed by Sheikh Saheb won the 1977 election on anti-India plank with the green flags and Pakistani rock salt as its symbols. After returning to power nothing was done to do away with the laws made applicable to the State by eroding autonomy. Farooq Abdullah, who succeeded his illustrious father in true dynastic manner, too failed to take any steps for the restoration of autonomy as long as he was in power and it was only used as a slogan on the eve of every election. He won the 1983 election by joining hands with Mirwaiz Farooq not only by raising the slogan of autonomy but also going much beyond it by painting India as enemy. On the eve of 1996 election to Lok Sabha Farooq vowed not to participate in any election until the state’s autonomy was not restored to pre’53 level. But then turned somersault with NC plunging into the assembly elections the same year when he was assured of New Delhi’s support. It was only in 2000, when he found popular resentment for his misgovernance, that he got the autonomy resolution passed by the State legislature. The resolution was uncermeniously thrown into dustbin without even being discussed by the then NDA government headed by A.B.Vajpayee, a government in which the NC was an ally sharing the crumbs of office. The party not only refused to come out of the alliance but even Omar Abdullah continue to serve the Union government as a junior minister till that government was voted out of power despite NC’s support.
The past record of the NC since 1975 clearly shows that the sole objective of the party is to grab power and retain its on its own or even in alliance with other central parties which either favour status-quo as in the case of Congress or have been demanding doing away with the State’s special status, as has been the consistent demand of the BJP. Its slogan for autonomy which becomes louder on the eve of polls is simply to hoodwink the people for the sake of power.
(editorial-Kashmir Times-November 19, 2012)