Panchayati Raj and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ali Mohammad Sagar who represent Khanyar constituency tells Syed Asma that in a coalition parties need to bargain over their interests
Kashmir Life (KL): The Chief Minister recently said that National Conference (NC) has reservations in making a pre-poll alliance with Congress. What are the reservations he was talking about?
Ali Mohammed Sagar (AMS): You may better ask Chief Minister about that.
KL: What about the rest of the party? Does your party have any reservations?
AMS: Yes, there are reservations in the party. There are some people who are saying that coalition is not good for party. But ultimately the party high command’s decision would matter and that is yet to come. Ours is a democratic party and every opinion is given importance. Let’s see what the party decides. So far, no decision has been taken.
KL: You being a senior member of NC, do you have any reservations in making a pre-poll alliance with Congress?
AMS: Yes. But it is not necessary that I will explain them to you.
KL: Don’t you feel that Congress is the real kingmaker in J&K as of now?
AMS: See after 1999 there were some agencies who specifically worked to weaken the voice of Kashmiris and the National Conference. They created segments and made people to realize that Mr A is from Sopore so he will serve his people, Mr B is from Maisuma and he will serve his people. Different agencies started working and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is a brainchild of a few of those agencies. Actually, the conspiracy started after the Autonomy resolution was passed. These agencies wanted to divide the masses and to some extent were successful. But I believe the real kingmakers are the people, who they think are worth winning will win. People are real players in democracy.
KL: What agencies are you talking about?
AMS: We all know who they are. It is better not to name them.
KL: How much was invested in your constituency during last five years and is there any disparity of fund allocation as far as the other constituencies of Srinagar are concerned?
AMS: Real investment is to build up repo with the people. I do not value money much but I prefer to get close to people and understand their issues. It really makes difference. Every MLA tries to spend on his constituency, I do that too. About disparity, it is a wrong notion. There are people who work more and even better than me but as I said what matters to me is the bond that I have built up with the people of my constituency. I just make sure that I address most of their grievances.
KL: What are the major changes you have brought in your constituency in past five years?
AMS: I have been working on improving the infrastructure of education and health sector in my constituency. Besides, the rope way to Sultan Arifeen’s shrine was inaugurated recently. This is done seeing the inflow of elderly devotees coming to Sultan’s way and would help the tourist inflow as well. Playground and community halls were also on my preference list.
KL: But a section of intellectuals and devotees have criticized the pathway as well as the idea of using a ropeway to a shrine.
AMS: When I conceived the idea of this ropeway and hired engineers, they shared three possible paths. I rejected two of them, as one was passing over residential houses and the other was passing over the dead bodies, which I believe is not right. So, I made them choose the present one instead. No dead bodies are found in this patch of land. And about criticism, it is to be acknowledged and appreciated. Most of the population is happy with the step.
KL: What about the demolition of one of the oldest hospitals at Rainawari? Couldn’t we have preserved it in any way?
AMS: The building was weak and was way too dangerous for a hospital. And all this happens in development. We created a comparatively bigger hospital. Besides, plans for road widening are also there, so we are on our way and development is very important.
KL: It is being said that you will be facing a tough competition this time in your constituency. Do you in fact feel any threat?
AMS: No, there is no threat at all. And about competition, it was always there. I have had competitions in past also and competition is always good. It makes you work harder. I am confident that I work in my constituency and rest is upon Allah and people.
KL: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has a strong base in your constituency, will you try to seek support from him during the coming assembly election.
AMS: Yes of course he has a strong base in city but he belongs to a different mind-set and believes in boycott and all. I can’t force his supporters to cast their votes in my favour but I am trying my best to look into their problem and do my work as an MLA. Whether they will support or not that is totally their discretion.
KL: Regarding administrative units’ controversy: Resignation of CM and cracks in coalition have been the talks of town for some time now. What do you think are the reasons for unsuccessful coalitions for NC? Same thing happened when your party was in coalition with NDA last time. Your party backed-off six month off the election.
AMS: You are taking it in totally different direction. No, it is not that. It is a routine thing. Parties need to bargain over their interests. Coalitions are supposed to have conflicts to work effectively and present coalition has undoubtedly performed very well. Besides, it is all speculation in media.
KL: What big development have you done in your ministry since you were in power?
AMS: We made it a familiar name in rural areas. Panchayat election and their empowerment has been our biggest achievement. Under MNERGA, we opened up 8.5 lakh bank accounts, besides giving lakhs of jobs in villages. We made it a point that at least Rs 20 lakh is spent in every village every year. The concept of Model villages was introduced. It changed the face of many villages. Water shed programs were introduced. Udaan, Umeed, Himayat etc have been introduced across Kashmir.
KL: GOI on and off accuse state that they are slow in spending money in rural development projects. What is the reason?
AMS: You are misinformed. They might be talking of some other departments. We have been spending a lot of money in our sector.
KL: Recently a brigade of young leaders was seen joining your party, why is it that only son’s of established NC leaders were seen why not some common faces? Don’t you entertain commoners in your party?
AMS: Not always. We have common people working for us on ground. If common people stop working for us we will collapse as a party. And isn’t it good that our party leader’s sons are joining us. If these young men are coming in, surely others will follow.
KL: While in opposition you actively pursued cases of innocent deaths in your constituency. But people say since you came in power you have become inaccessible for that kind of complaints?
AMS: I and my party have always raised voices against innocent killings. We always did that. We raised our voices and who says I am Inaccessible. I am always available. It was me who took Zahid Farooq’s case to the Supreme Court. I have been working on Muntazir’s case as well. We raised our voice in cases like Machil fake encounter and Pathribal incident.
KL: What is your take on Army exonerating its men in Pathribal case?
AMS: We are looking into legal course and will find a way.