Health woes have kept Farooq Abdullah far away from home but the three-term Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir says that his bigger worry today is BJP’s “sinister” plan to abrogate the state’s special status which will lead to “massive unrest”.
For the first time in nearly four decades, the 77-year-old president of the ruling National Conference, who is in the UK for the last three months for treatment of kidneys, is unable to lead his party’s campaign in the Assembly elections.
“I am a batsman under treatment but raring to go back to the field,” he said in an interview to a news agency, explaining that he was unlikely to be in a position to go back home before February next, well after the Nov-Dec polls.
“But believe me my bigger worry is the known agenda of the BJP to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution which gives our state a special status for which commitments were given by Mahatma Gandhi and by the Government of India.
“They (BJP) will do anything to achieve their objectives. They will polarise this sensitive state as they have done in the rest of the country. They will strike deals with anyone,” Abdullah said.
Warning of serious implications of abrogation of Art 370, he said, “there would be massive unrest in younger minds and we will never achieve peace.”
About Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the veteran politician said, “I do not know whether he can go against the dictates of RSS on Art 370. It will be a great day for the entire nation when he understands the heartbeats of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Criticising BJP’s attempts to rope in separatist leader Sajjad Lone who recently met Modi, Abdullah said, “people who have been strong supporters of an independent Kashmir are being wooed by the BJP.
Abdullah regards the current election as “very significant” because it will decide the future of the state as to whether Jammu and Kashmir will continue to enjoy autonomy within the Constitution of India or Art 370 will be dismantled.
“My appeal to the people is to forget all differences, all pains and tribulations of the past and stand together against forces determined to dismantle Kashmiriyat,” he said.
The former chief minister appealed to the separatist Hurriyat Conference not to boycott the election as “that will not help the situation but will only help those out to abrogate our special status”.
He said that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are one state and “they have to stand together for the future progress of the state”.
He urged “my Hindu brethren not to forget the slogan of NC — Hindu, Muslim, Sikh itehad (unity)” and added, “it is vital that the secular fabric of the state is not disturbed”.
Abdullah urged his party workers to stand behind his son and current Chief Minister Omar in this crucial election.
Asked how he rated Omar’s performance, the veteran leader said, “he has done well with all the difficulties that come in a coalition government. He has tried to serve the people sincerely and with dedication. He is honest and upright.”
He referred to the recent devastating floods describing them as an unprecedented natural disaster.
“My heart goes out to the people who have suffered. The state government is doing whatever it can to rehabilitate them. I know there has been some criticism of the state administration but I also know that Omar plunged fully into relief and rehabilitation efforts,” Abdullah said.
Abdullah said the NC’s experience with its coalition partner Congress had been both good and bad. “The biggest stumbling block has been Saifuddin Soz, the state Congress President, who always created hurdles.”
Asked if there was a possibility of NC and Congress again coming together after the election, he replied, “time alone will tell.”