The two ideologically divergent ruling partners — the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — in Jammu and Kashmir are headed straight for a showdown as the debate over the abrogation of Article 35A of the Constitution heats up.
The alliance between the PDP and the BJP which was called “the meeting of the North Pole and the South Pole” by the late PDP patron, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, seems to be cracking at the seams.
“Why are they doing it,” a visibly disturbed Mehbooba Mufti asked as she warned that any tinkering with the special status of J&K would bring about a situation where “shouldering the national flag” in Kashmir would become impossible for pro-India parties in the state.
The Jammu-centric BJP and the Valley-centric PDP are politically “destined” to oppose each other over the highly sensitive issue.
A presidential order in 1954 brought into existence Article 35A which gives the J&K legislature powers to define the permanent residents of the state and their privileges.
A petition filed in the Supreme Court seeking abrogation of Article 35A pleads that the presidential order was not ratified by the country’s Parliament which alone has the powers to amend the Constitution.
“The President of India cannot exercise the powers to amend the Constitution which is the sole prerogative of Parliament,” says the petition, filed by an NGO.
The regional National Conference (NC) headed by Farooq Abdullah, who has been Chief Minister of the state thrice, called an opposition meeting, which was attended by the Congress, the NC and independent legislators of the state.
Abdullah told reporters after the meeting that abrogation of Article 35A would unleash an uprising that the government would not be able to handle.
A day after this statement, Mehbooba Mufti called on Abdullah to discuss ways and means to protect Article 35A.
A statement issued by the NC said the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. Abdullah is learnt to have advised Mehbooba to meet other like-minded leaders to work out a joint strategy for the legal defence of the article.
Senior PDP leader and a minister, Naeem Akhtar, said it was a move intended to rise above party politics in the larger interest of the state.
“This is to underline the fact that the constitutional relation between the state and the centre is based on Article 370 and provisions like Article 35A. If anybody tries to weaken these, it will weaken the constitutional relationship between the state and the centre,” Akhtar said.
He said the two leaders had agreed that it was time to rise above party politics in the interest of the state.
A meeting called by a citizens’ forum in winter capital Jammu has vehemently advocated the abrogation of Article 35A to bring J&K closer to the rest of the country.
Speakers at the meeting in Jammu accused the NC president of trying to mount pressure on the Supreme Court judges by threatening an “uprising” if the article was held as null and void by the bench hearing the petition.
The separatists have also called for a protest shutdown on August 12 against attempts to do away with the state’s special status.
It is generally argued in the Valley that abrogation of Article 35A would not only do away with the special citizenship rights of the people in J&K, but would also take to its logical conclusion the rightwing agenda of the state’s complete merger with India.
As all eyes remain fixed on the decision of the apex Court on the petition filed before it, the political temperatures in J&K are rising to a point where the “meeting of the North Pole and South Pole” would become politically as impossible as it is geographically.