In a surprising turn of events, National Conference has decided to boycott the upcoming Urban Local Bodies and Panchayat polls, days after the partys president Dr Farooq Abdullah at a function urged the people to participate in them for their bright future. The party has asked the central government to clear its stance on Article 35A before it decides to participate. Abdullah has also threatened to boycott the Assembly and parliamentary elections unless the centre doesnt make its stand clear on the issue. Similarly, the PDP has also sought New Delhis assurance on the state subject law before it decides to take part in the local polls. The partys leader Mehbooba Mufti made it clear that New Delhi had deepened suspicions in J&K as to its approach towards Article 35A and so people needed to be reassured in this regard before they could be persuaded to vote in the polls.
On their part, both the centre and the state government have adopted a sphinx like silence. Ever since the petitions challenging the validity of the Article 35A were filed in Supreme Court, the central government has pretended not to have anything to do with it, even while it has refused to defend it in the court. This has caused apprehensions in Kashmir that the BJP-led Union Government wants the law to go as it bars outsiders from settling in the state and also because the BJP has been ideologically opposed to it.
But a majority of the people in the state have closed ranks against any attempt to revoke or dilute the all-important Article. The ongoing case against the constitutional provision in the Supreme Court has united divergent ideological and political groups in the state. And one can understand why. Perhaps never before has New Delhi been perceived to be making as concerted a bid to do away with the states leftover special constitutional position as in the past four years albeit, some of this perception reinforced by the BJPs ideological stance on the state. The party has appeared to be in a tearing hurry to pursue its longstanding agenda on the state.
This has reinforced an existing narrative in Kashmir, aided by the history of the past seventy years, which sees New Delhi always conspiring to undermine the states autonomy, not stopping even at its drastic erosion so far but working opportunistically to see the end of it.
But despite all this deep sense of apprehension and foreboding pervading the air, the centre has not deemed it worth its while to reassure the people of the Valley. Now that New Delhi wants to hold local polls and the major mainstream parties have refused to participate pending an assurance from the government as to the fate of the Article, it is time the centre speaks. But, as of now, there’s little clarity on what is on the mind of the central government. Here is hoping that the centre does offer this assurance as the consequences of doing away with the law will be catastrophic for the state.