Amid a controversy over the state administrative council's decision to declare Jammu and Kashmir bank as a public sector undertaking (PSU), the National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said on Wednesday that the "moves" to take over control of the state's prime financial institution "were in the pipeline for a long time".
"The moves to take over J&K bank have been in pipeline for a long time, (but) they haven't succeeded. In the governor's rule, they probably thought they will succeed," Farooq told media on the sidelines of a function at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Center here.
Farooq, a member of parliament from Srinagar, said the next government which comes to power in J&K should ensure autonomy of the bank is maintained at all costs.
Asked why attempts were being made to take over the control of the bank, Farooq said: "I don't know. Ask those who are trying to do it. It is a tragedy."
Responding to another question over assurances by Governor Satya Pal Malik to a delegation of bank employees Tuesday that safeguarding autonomy of the bank was a key objective of the government, Farooq said there was a "design" earlier to take over control of bank when "I was the chief minister of the state".
"The bank was working well. I remember there was a meeting in the office of then home minister. There were Advan ji, myself (as then chief minister) and deputy chairman of the planning commission, Pant ji, and they were saying that this bank is not good and it's going down and should be taken over. Luckily, The Business Standard had published a complete report on the bank and showed how good this bank was doing. I sent those reports to them and I am glad that Pant ji spoke to me on phone and said his information was wrong," Farooq said.
On Tuesday, the Governor assured that the government would re-examine a decision that made the Jammu and Kashmir bank accountable to the state legislature, amid controversy over another decision by the state administrative council in its meeting on November 22, declaring the institution as a public sector undertaking (PSU).
The Governor, however, said the word PSU has "no legal connotations" while assuring to safeguard the autonomy and operational independence of the bank.
"I think he (the Governor) did say that he won't be able to change status of the bank. He did say that. It is good news," Farooq responded to another question.
Farooq called for early elections in J&K, which is under governor's rule after the fall of the PDP-BJP government on June 19 this year.
He also pitched for holding of the polls along with the general elections, saying, "It will be a good thing."
Farooq also underscored the need for "reviving institutions".
"Democracy is essential. This (governor's rule) is for a short time. They (advisors) are doing a good job, the way they meet people. I am glad. But institutions have to be revived and it is necessary. I am sure we will have peaceful elections and honest people will be elected," he said.
The NC president said the state was going through "extremely difficult times."
He said that he sees a "change" in leaders of Pakistan and India towards resolving issues.
"I am confident that time has come to see solution emerging to this problem of our state. I hope we have peace. I want to walk freely without any security," Farooq said.
He welcomed "positive approach" of Pakistan's leadership on resolving long-pending issues with India, saying it has rekindled hope that the two countries can live with trust and friendship.
"I wish the day comes when the two neighbouring countries live in camaraderie," he said.
He said Imran Khan's statement on India-Pakistan bonhomie has rekindled hope that the day would come when people of J&K will live in a peaceful atmosphere.
Responding to a statement of Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone that his (Farooq's) hands were "drenched in blood", the National Conference leader said: "I don't see any blood on my hand. Can you see any blood on my hands…I don't know where he (Lone) saw the blood."
The former chief minister took a dig at the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath over "deteriorating law and order situation" in his state.
Farooq said instead of looking after his own state, Yogi was campaigning in other states and seeking votes for his party in the name of "Bhagwan Ram".
"This is not India we dreamt of. India is a secular nation. The election commission should take notice of his remarks that any use of religion is not supposed to be part of election process. Action must be taken against those people who use religion in the election process," Farooq said.
Terming killing of a senior police official in UP's Bulandshahar as great tragedy, he said the incident "had been planned".
He said the elections were being fought in India on "wrong terms".
"The nation must remember that those forces who are trying to divide should be thrown out," he said, adding: "When you use religion in elections then you are not fighting for people. Why aren't they (government of India) asked about the promises they had made with the people; the promises of Rs 15 lakh in everybody's pocket; the promises of crores of jobs…what has GST and demonisation done?"
He said India was going through a "major change".
"We are all worried over the way tragedies are being created. The secular character of this nation is at stake. It is very unfortunate to see what's happening in a land which was supposed to be for all of us, whatever your religion, your cast and your language; it was supposed to be for all of us," he said.
"Let's hope there will be change in this nation and secular character of this nation is maintained, otherwise greater dangers will arrive," he said.