New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with top political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir at his Delhi residence today on Thursday – first ever since the region’s special status was scrapped in 2019 – with an aim to set on course the political process in the region, which has been under President’s Rule since 2018 when the BJP withdrew support from the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s government.
To take part in this high level political meet, fourteen mainstream Jammu and Kashmir leaders from eight political parties, including four Chief Ministers reached Prime Minister’s residence. The Gupkar Alliance, a group of seven parties led by Ms Mufti and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, had said they would press for restoration of full statehood and special status at the meet. The Congress also echoed the demand.
“I am going to the meeting. I will keep the demands there and then I will talk to you,” Farooq Abdullah told reporters before the meeting. “We have not been given an agenda. We will be attending the meeting to know what the Centre is offering,” added CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, who is also a spokesman of the Gupkar alliance.
The government says while restoration of statehood will be considered “at an appropriate time”, that time has not come yet.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval flanked PM Modi as the meeting took place in a large hall.
While no specific agenda had been revealed yet, reports suggests the discussions could include delimitation or redrawing of constituencies as the first step towards assembly polls after Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories.
This is the Centre’s first major outreach since August 2019, when it scrapped special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution. Several political leaders, including Ms Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, were detained amid massive security restrictions to prevent any protests over the sweeping changes.
Home ministry officials have said with terrorism at a low in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, the timing is right to begin the political process.
There was talk of assembly elections alongside the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, but the Election Commission flagged concerns about security expressed by the Jammu and Kashmir administration.
To note, in December, local body elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir, in which Gupkar Alliance won more than 100 seats and the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 74 seats.