PDP Chief Mehbooba Says Centre Must 'win Hearts And Minds

8 June 2014
Daily Mail Online
Amit Agnohotri

Srinagar: The People's Democratic Party (PDP) has snubbed an attempt by BJP and RSS leaders to rake up the controversial issue of repealing Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and asked them instead to 'win the hearts and minds' of people in the troubled border state. Referring to minister of state in the prime minister's office (PMO) Jitendra Singh's remarks about the possible abrogation of Article 370, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti told Mail Today: 'It was a hurriedly given statement. It would send a wrong message.' Describing Article 370 as a 'bridge' that links Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country, she said 'any move to tamper with this clause in the Indian Constitution will disturb that connection'. The issue came into focus after Singh contended that Article 370 was a 'psychological barrier' and the new BJP government was in the process of abrogating it. He also said the government was talking to stakeholders on the issue. After his remarks triggered a storm, Singh claimed he had been misquoted. However, the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP, said there should be a debate on the issue. Mufti also took a dig at a reported government plan to change the Kashmir-centric approach towards territory illegally occupied by Pakistan - referred to as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir - and to rename it as Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and said: 'The Centre should instead focus on our portion of Kashmir and win the hearts and minds of the people.' Though Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had alleged in April that there was a clandestine pact between the PDP and the BJP for the Lok Sabha polls, Mufti denied her party was exploring any alliance with the BJP for state assembly polls to be held by January 2015. 'No way,' she said. 'No alliance with the BJP.' Incidentally, both PDP and BJP won three Lok Sabha seats each in the state. The National Conference-Congress alliance under Omar Abdullah took power in January 2009. Noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has a strong mandate just like Rajiv Gandhi had with 414 Lok Sabha MPs in 1984, Mufti expressed hope that the Centre would address people's issues in Jammu and Kashmir. 'After the Rajiv Gandhi government, the NDA has a big mandate. They should address issues like health, education and jobs in the state,' she said. Mufti said she would play her part in Parliament. 'We will raise basic issues of the people of Kashmir in Parliament. This Parliament gave us Article 370,' said Mufti, who represents Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha. Noting that Muslims 'should give a chance to parties which want to solve their basic issues', the PDP chief said she wanted Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to leave the state by militants two decades ago, to be resettled. 'We want the Pandits to go back to their homes,' she said.