'Hope Delhi Will Take Vajpayee Line On Kashmir'

22 November 2014
The Hindu
Zahid Rafiq

Srinagar: With the National Conference and the Congress discredited and marginalised in the State, the People's Democratic Party is heading into a crucial election and remains the only challenge to the BJP. Mehbooba Mufti speaks to The Hindu on the dangers of the BJP's divisive campaign and the need for any party in Jammu and Kashmir to work with New Delhi for a resolution in the State. Reason for support base We began from one seat in the 1999 by-elections, and in the 2002 elections, we got 16 seats; in 2008, we got 21. And Inshallah this time it looks much better. It seems that ultimately people are reposing their trust and faith in our party and that is why it is growing. Even in 2008, the vote share we got was much higher than that of the ruling National Conference though the number of seats was less. For the first time, the PDP is coming up as not only an alternative but a better option than NC. This support from the people has a lot to do with our agenda and our performance, both when we were in the Government and as the opposition. People compare the three years of Mufti Sahib with the rest of the period and that is where they think PDP can make the difference. Major issues in this election If it was any other part of the country, I would say that it is just about good governance. But in J&K, I must say that it is about facilitating the process of resolution and creating a reconciliatory atmosphere within the state and also between the people of the State and the rest of India. Also, then it has to be complimented with good governance and very apt, accountable and transparent administration. The major issue then has to be the political and the peace process at the same time and good governance too. BJP entry and changes Again, I would say that it is because of the misgovernance of both the NC and the Congress that people are looking at the BJP in many of the areas, especially in Jammu. But all these things which the BJP are trying to convey to a particular group of people - that they are going to handle things in Kashmir differently and teach Kashmiris a lesson and disempower them because when they talk about the abrogation of Art 370 it means disempowerment of the State. The communalisation they are fostering makes it Jammu Vs Kashmir and then Kashmir Vs the rest of India. So they are playing a very, very dangerous game and we will not allow it to happen. Negotiating with the BJP We were very lucky to have Mr Vajpayee at the helm of affairs at that time. He understood that Kashmir has been a challenge for every Prime Minister; so while you can give good governance, do something to eradicate poverty and many other things but Kashmir is the issue that holds not only every PM but the whole country down, not only nationally but also internationally. And he did his best - from taking the bus to Lahore and inviting Musharraf even after Kargil and a lot of things including the facilitation of separatists to meet not only Musharraf but to allow them to travel in Pakistan and meet people there and come back and talk. He understood the complexity of J&K and its relationship with the rest of the country. We have heard Mr Modi say many times that he is going to follow the footsteps of Mr Vajpayee but we have yet to see how it functions and hope that once we form the Government here, we are able to talk things out with them. Post-poll alliance with BJP? I am hopeful that Inshallah we will get the mandate and there will be no need for aligning with any party. But the other thing is that even after getting the majority, whether it is the NC, the Congress or the BJP, I think every government has to work with them, not necessarily to have an alliance but to do things.