The actual results were a surprise package for many quarters
The NC bashing over the last few months forced me to debunk some of the propaganda fostered by people with vested interests. Let me first thank people who have voted in the recently held assembly elections in the state. The exit polls had predicted 10 seats for the National Conference (NC) and 37 for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The actual results were a surprise package for many quarters. The NC, justly opposed holding of elections in the immediate aftermath of floods, could manage to win 15 seats and successfully backed two independent candidates. The PDP could grab only 28 seats, unexpected for a party riding high on anti-incumbency.
An impression has been created that the NC-led coalition government was a failure and people have voted for a change. Is it really so? We have tried our best to serve the oppressed masses of Kashmir. From the very beginning, Mr. Omar Abdullah as Chief Minister of the state has persistently demanded the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The lackluster ‘Kashmir Policy’ followed by the Central government failed us on this front. The Indian National Congress (INC) succumbed to the pressures exerted by BJP, a party which is now ready to negotiate the issue with PDP. It remains to be seen whether the PDP, if it holds power, is able to revoke the Disturbed Areas Act and remove AFSPA from certain pockets of the state. We have successfully held the Panchayat elections in the state, a credit which is being nullified by the PDP protagonists. A recent opinion piece in this paper (Atop a Moral High Horse, 18 January 2015) reads: “Finally, how is conducting the local polls a great achievement of the state government? Enabling those local bodies and representatives to function efficiently would have been an achievement though.” It is a reality that the Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) in the state suffer from both structural as well as operational weaknesses. It will take some to put in place proper infrastructure and make the PRIs fully operational and inclusive. Even after five decades of their existence, the PRIs in India is not a success story. At least, we have taken the big first step to ensure peaceful elections for local bodies. Let us wait and watch the effectiveness of local self-governance under the new dispensation.
Another statement from the above-cited article reads: “How is the decline in militancy his (CM’s) achievement? Which of his policies led to the decline of militancy in J&K?” Whose achievement is this then? It is easy to blame us for the 2010 unfortunate killings and difficult to give credit for the decline in militancy? In 2011 we have launched the rehabilitation policy for militants, who had crossed over to Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) for arms training but are seeking to return home. About 300 youth returned to the state from PAK under this policy. The natural corollary of decline in militancy and peace at the borders was the huge influx of tourists from India and abroad.
We have successfully reduced the visibility of armed forces in cities and towns. As Mr. Omar Abdullah revealed in his Independence Day speech on 15th August 2014, “At least 1000 private buildings, 300 government buildings, 40 hotels and 30 industrial units have been cleared from the security forces.” This couldn’t happen during the earlier PDP-Congress coalition government in the state.
All credit for the Kashmir specific CBMs including the Cross LoC travel and trade is being thrusted upon the PDP. During his tenure as CM Mr. Omar Abdullah made persistent efforts to ease the travel and trade across the LoC. We have strongly advocated for enhancing the number of trading items and providing communication facilities to our traders but to no avail. In border states the concerns of national security overwhelm the issues of human security. We do acknowledge that the Cross LoC trade is not simply a ‘barter trade’ but a ‘blind trade’ indeed. We have successfully upgraded the trade facilitation centres at Uri and Poonch to the satisfaction of our traders and we are deeply committed to the Indo-Pak peace process for better future of our people.
We have tried to improve the health infrastructure in the state. For this 200 new health institutions at different levels have been opened and 12815 doctors and paramedics have been appointed to provide adequate staff to the hospitals. Still a lot needs to be done to improve the health standards of our people. Maternal mortality rates are still high in the state compared to states like Kerala, Punjab or Himachal Pradesh.
After the recently held assembly elections in the state, PDP emerged as the single largest party winning 28 seats. To end the impasse over government formation, we have formally announced our support to the PDP. But PDP is not interested in aligning with either NC or Congress. The stalemate has resulted in the imposition of governor’s rule. There are clear indications that the PDP-BJP coalition will materialise after the Delhi assembly elections. There is some intellectual backing for this alliance within and without. It is interesting to imagine how a coalition of two extremes will work amidst escalations along the border, Kashmir specific talks off the dialogue table and when communal and divisive forces have a free run in India.
Dr. Bashir Ahmad Veeri is member of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council. Views are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of the party he belongs to.