Cong.(I) to oppose autonomy package for J&K
16 June 2000
New Delhi: The Congress(I) has decided to oppose the proposed autonomy package for Jammu and Kashmir in the State Assembly. The party''s decision comes in the wake of reports of the State Government''s plans to get the autonomy report passed in the Assembly session starting from Monday. The decision to oppose the autonomy package was taken after a series of meetings among the Congress(I) president, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the PCC(I) chief, Mr. Shafi Qureshi, the AICC general- secretary in-charge of the State, Mr. Ahmad Patel, Dr. Karan Singh, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Mangat Ram Sharma and its CLP leader, Mr. Ashok Sharma. Five years ago, it was the Congress(I) that first hinted at such a proposition, when the then Prime Minister, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, made it clear that as far as the Congress(I) was concerned ''the sky was the limit'' provided the solution was within the parameters of the Constitution. The change in the Congress(I)''s position has come about because the party believes that the current package could end up dividing the State on communal lines, as both Jammu and Ladakh have already opposed the move. According to Mr. Ahmad Patel ''the Congress party is not opposed to the idea of autonomy but is certainly opposed to any division on communal lines''. Mr. Patel also told The Hindu that his party had decided to oppose the proposed move because it had not been taken into confidence, and the autonomy committee was packed with National Conference members. The committee was initially headed by Dr. Karan Singh but he resigned after a few months and the Government appointed its own nominee, and has studiously avoided taking any of the other parties into confidence. The party also believes that the J&K Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, has suddenly woken up to the issue with just a year to go for the Assembly elections in order to deflect attention from the rampant corruption, four years of gross misgovernance and his inability to check militancy. ''This is nothing but an attempt to hoodwink the people,'' says a senior leader of the party hailing from the State. In the party''s view, the 1953 accord signed between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah formed the broad parameter from within which a solution to the problem could emerge. According to Congress(I) leaders, the solution can come through good governance which the NC Government had ''failed'' to provide. The party believes that the Chief Minister had frittered away the atmosphere created by the Rao Government, which finally paved the way for the Assembly elections in 1996. The party''s opposition to the move may not however amount to much on the floor of the House given the fact that it has only six members in the 86-member J&K Assembly, while the National Conference with 62 MLAs enjoys a brute majority in the House.