Historic PDP-BJP Govt In Kashmir Gets Off To A Controversial Start

1 March 2015
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Jammu: The PDP-BJP coalition government got off to a rocky start with chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed crediting 'people from across the border' for the smooth conduct of Jammu & Kashmir assembly elections, only to be challenged by both the BJP and the Congress. 'I want to say this on record and I have told this to the PM that we must credit the Hurriyat and militant outfits for the (smooth) conduct of elections in the state,' Sayeed said at a press conference after being sworn in as the CM at a ceremony attended by the PM on Sunday. Flanked by deputy CM Nirmal Singh of BJP and cabinet minister Haseeb Drabu, Sayeed said, 'People from across the border allowed conducive atmosphere during elections. My humble submission is peaceful elections were not possible, if they had done something. You know how small action was needed to disturb the elections. They allowed this democratic process to go ahead. This gives us hope.' While the BJP central leadership said it was the efforts of the Election Commission and the security forces that ensured peaceful elections, the Congress slammed Mufti, calling his comment a cruel joke on the people of the state and the security forces. 'J&K CM's statement is most unfortunate and mocks the overwhelming public mandate,' said Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala. 'With one stroke, the PDP-BJP alliance has taken away the credit from people of J&K for participating in historic polls, and from the EC and security agencies for conducting them. The PM and BJP must answer whether they stand by such unflinching support for Pakistan, Hurriyat and militants,' Surjewala added. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who skipped the swearing-in ceremony, hit out at Sayeed as well, asking the BJP to explain its stand. 'Pakistan, Hurriyat & Militants ALLOWED Peaceful conduct of elections' says Sayeed. I guess we should be grateful to their generosity (sic),' tweeted Omar. And again, 'Dear @BJP4India. Please explain role of security forces & polling staff considering your CM just said, 'Pakistan allowed elections in J&K'.' In fact Mufti said that it was at his behest that the PM deputed his foreign secretary for secretary-level talks in Pakistan in the coming days. 'Kashmir has been a problem for every PM since 1947. I told the PM that we should be friends with Pakistan,' he said. 'We'll together try our best to establish powerful democracy in the state and will request the Centre to initiate unconditional dialogue with the separatists who are really a force to reckon with in Kashmir,' Mufti said in reply to a question. 'Take Hurriyat and separatists on board as they too have a view-point,' he said. Mufti pointed at Sajjad Lone's entry in the cabinet, saying it has opened door for others in the separatist camp to join the mainstream and it has become an eye-opener for them. Significantly, Sajjad, a former separatist and son of slain Hurriyat functionary Abdul Gani Lone, has been inducted into the cabinet from the BJP's quota of ministers. The CM said the PDP-BJP common minimum programme called 'Agenda of the Alliance' states that the coalition government will examine the need for de-notifying 'disturbed areas' and enable the Central government to take a final view on the continuation of AFSPA in those areas. He also said he would ask the Army and security forces to vacate land and properties in the state that they are in unauthorized occupation of, quickly adding they would also be asked to get these regularized wherever needed. 'We want to make this alliance a turning point in trying to meet the hearts and minds of the people of the two regions,' Mufti said. 'We've a historic opportunity, and we want a new chapter,' he said, adding, 'Unemployment is the main challenge. We want to create people employers here.'