Union Home Minister Amit Shah hits out at the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir with a string of accusations that include getting "foreign forces to intervene" in the issue of scrapping of Article 370, taking away the rights of women and Dalits and bringing back "terror and turmoil" in the Union Territory. In a series of tweets, he also targets the Congress -- a signatory of the Gupkar Declaration -- asking the party to clarify its position on the issue. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti hit back immediately with an equal number of tweets, where she accused the BJP of using "euphemism" and "stale tactic". National Conference chief Omar Abdullah pointed to the "frustration" of the minister at the J&K alliance's decision to contest elections. "Gupkar gang" is a slur for the "People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration", a group of key political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir -- including Farooq Abdullah, his arch-rival Mehbooba Mufti and Sajjad Lone -- who came together to fight for the restoration of Article 370 and a resolution to Kashmir.
A war of attrition has broken out between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the parties in the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in Jammu & Kashmir with the National Conference picking up the gauntlet against the second-most powerful man in the ruling BJP after Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shah took the PAGD head on Tuesday when he broke his silence for the first time after the alliance seeking restoration of Articles 370 and 35A and statehood for J&K was formed.
Shah tweeted on Tuesday: “The Gupkar Gang is going global! They want foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gupkar Gang also insults India’s Tricolour. Do Sonia ji and Rahul ji support such moves of the Gupkar Gang? They should make their stand crystal clear to the people of India.”
Shah was referring to two developments those followed the formation of the PAGD.
One was NC chief Farooq Abdullah’s statement in which he had sought help from China for restoration of Article 370. The statement was later denied by the NC alleging that the party president had been misquoted.
The second point raised by Shah is the statement by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti which she made after her party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), joined the alliance.
Mufti said unless the state flag of erstwhile J&K was restored, she would not pick up the national flag.
It may be recalled that before the abrogation of the special status, J&K had a separate constitution and a separate flag.
The state constitution was operative concomitantly with the Indian Constitution and the state flag was hoisted side by side with the national flag at the Civil Secretariat, the seat of the Governor in J&K.
The third point mentioned by Shah is whether Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi supported these overtures of the PAGD since the Congress party has joined the PAGD in J&K.
NC leader and ex-CM Omar Abdullah has taken strong exception to the statement made by Shah. In his counter allegation to Shah’s charges, Omar said, “We are not a ‘gang’ Amit Shah ji, we are a legitimate political alliance having fought & continuing to fight elections, much to your disappointment.”
The PAGD has been alleging that the BJP believed and hoped that the regional political parties like the NC and the PDP would stay away from the district development council (DDC) polls and thereby the BJP and its purported ally – JK Apni Party of Altaf Bukhari – would sweep these polls.
Incidentally, Omar Abdullah has been calling JK Apni Party as the “King’s party” to convey an impression that it is the B-team of the BJP, an allegation strongly refuted by Altaf Bukhari.
In his war of attrition against Shah, Omar Abdullah said in another comment, “I can understand the frustration behind this attack by the Hon’ble Home Minister. He had been briefed that the People’s Alliance was preparing to boycott elections. This would have allowed the BJP & newly formed ‘King’s party’ a free run in J&K. We didn’t oblige them”.
Strong words used by both Shah and Omar Abdullah are seen locally as a part of the election campaign by the BJP and the NC against each other.
The DDC elections are very important for all the political parties in J&K since under the Panchayati Raj system, all developmental decisions would be taken at the level of the DDCs.
NC and the PDP initially said that all electoral processes would be meaningless unless the pre-August 5, 2019 position was restored when the state lost its special status.
In defence of their decision to join the DDC elections, the parties in the PAGD are saying that the DDCs are a ‘sacred space’ which cannot be left open for the BJP.
While the NC and the PDP have ground level party cadre in the Valley, the BJP has so far not been able to attract the imagination of the common Kashmiri.
In contrast to this, the BJP is better placed in the Jammu division where it has its cadre active at the grassroots level.
Despite the BJP’s strong presence in the Jammu division, the NC, and to some extent, the PDP also have support especially in districts with sizeable Muslim population in the Jammu division.
The general impression created by the NC and the PDP is that since they have joined the DDC elections, the BJP does not have half the chance to win these elections.
If the impression is to be conveyed to attract votes then it is a good electoral strategy, but if the NC and the PDP seriously believe the situation to be so, then a surprise could be awaiting them at the hustings.
“Old habits die hard. Earlier BJP’s narrative was that the ‘tukde tukde; gang threatened India’s sovereignty and they are now using ‘Gupkar Gang’ euphemism to project us as anti-nationals. Irony died a million deaths since it’s BJP itself that violates the constitution day in and day out,” Mehbooba said.
She said fighting the District Development Council (DDC) elections as an alliance by parties signatory to the Gupkar deceleration is anti-national for the BJP.
“Fighting elections in an alliance is also anti-national now. BJP can stitch as many alliances in its hunger for power, but somehow we are undermining national interest by putting up a united front,” Mufti said.
She said the BJP has lost focus from the main issues faced by the country and its tactics of projecting itself as the sole saviour of the country are predictable.
“BJP’s stale tactic of dividing India by projecting themselves as saviours and political opponents as internal and imagined enemies is far too predictable now. Love jihad, tukde tukde & now Gupkar Gang dominates the political discourse instead of issues like rising unemployment and inflation,” she saidin another tweet.
Shah launched a scathing attack saying “either the Gupkar Gang swims along with the national mood or else the people will sink it”.
Home Minister’s remarks came a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party, in the run-up to the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir, termed the stance of the Gupkar alliance on Article 370 and the Tricolour as “anti-national” and demanded that the Congress clarify if it supported these parties or not.
The alliance of about 10 regional parties has demanded the restoration of Article 370, a demand supported by some senior Congress leaders, including P. Chidambaram.
PAGD is a political alliance between the multiple mainstream regional political parties of Jammu and Kashmir aimed to restore special status along with Article 35A of the erstwhile state Jammu and Kashmir.
It was originally formed as Gupkar Declaration, a political movement by the major political parties such as the National Conference, Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (M), Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference and Awami National Conference on August 4, 2019, a day before Article 370 was revoked by Parliament.
The Congress launched a counter attack on Amit Shah for his remark on the ‘Gupkar alliance’ and questioned the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tie-up with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “It is very shameful that Union Home Minister Amit Shah is making false and misleading statements on Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh while ignoring his responsibilities about national security.”
In a statement, he said, “The Congress is not a part of ‘Gupkar alliance’ and the People’s Association for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). The Congress is proud of the sacrifices given by its leaders. The Congress will never tolerate any foreign intereference in J&K or in the internal matters of the country. Amit Shah and Modi government needs to learn the new lesson of patriotism as their parent organisation never hoisted national flag at RSS headquarters even after 52 years of Independence.”
Questioning the BJP’s alliance with the PDP in J&K, he said Amit Shah should explain that if he is criticising the PDP now then why did the BJP form the government with them.
The Congress also raised the issue of the release of the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks and other terrorists.
He said that the Congress is contesting the district council polls to expose the anti-people image of the BJP through a democratic process. (IANS)