Why Does Not Azad’s Stand On Delimitation Differ With BJP?

SRINAGAR: A bitter critic of the ruling dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir, Congress leader and former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad has taken a stand on delimitation, not very different from the BJP.

A gathering of Congress leaders and workers in the Devsar area on November 27, 2021

“We consider Jammu and Kashmir as a sate and whether the seats are given here (Jammu) or there (Kashmir), we should talk in terms of whole Jammu and Kashmir state, irrespective of regions,” Azad was quoted saying to the media on the sidelines of a Christmas related event in Udhampur on Saturday.

The line is almost echoing the sentiment that BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir president, Ravinder Raina said on December 22: “Jammu and Kashmir is one and there is nothing like (separate) Kashmir and Jammu. It is about Jammu and Kashmir”.

Azad told reporters that his “struggle” for restoration of Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, was not region-specific. “For me, Jammu and Kashmir is one, and so, I cannot take side for one or the other region.”

His only other idea on the delimitation was that three seats should be reserved for Chenab valley and Pir Panchal sub-regions.

The Delimitation Commission led by Justice (retd) Desai has suggested that they would be recommending seven seats to the overall 90-member Jammu and Kashmir house of which six will be in Jammu region and one in Kashmir. This is despite the fact that Kashmir is numerically over one and half million bigger.

The recommendation has literally divided the entire political class across Jammu and Kashmir. Almost every political party in Kashmir sees it as an attempt at disempowerment of Kashmir and the PAGD has said it will challenge the recommendation before the Supreme Court where the Reorganisation Law of the parliament has already been challenged.

BJP continues to remain the only political party that has completely supported the recommendation. Now, Azad, who is busy visiting the Chenab Valley region has decided against taking sides.

However, Azad has been a bitter critic of the ruling dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir. In his Udhampur speech, Azad drew parallels between the incumbent rulers and the pre-partition autocracy saying the Maharaja’s rule was better than this.

“The maharajas gave us three things which were in the interest of the public of both Kashmir and Jammu regions, and one of them was the Darbar Move. I was always supportive of the Darbar Move,” Azad said. “Today after so many years, we see the maharaja who used to be called a dictator was much better than the present government. The actions of the maharaja were for the welfare of the public, while the present government has taken away all the three things (Darbar Move, protection of land and jobs) from us.”

Azad said the situation across Jammu and Kashmir is bad and the erstwhile state is heading towards poverty. “People are anguished as there is no business, no jobs, high prices and developmental works have come to standstill,” Azad said. “I was of the opinion that people in cities are happy. Ragunath Bazar, City Chowk and Kanak Mandi (in Jammu) represent the pulse of the whole business community. Every shop I visited, I found that people are disappointed because business is down for the past five years.”

For the last two and a half months, Azad is visiting various Jammu sub-regions mostly Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal. He has been maintaining in his public meetings that the political class has lost its touch with the people since 2019. His initiative, not linked to elections according to him, has helped other parties to follow the suit and it is a welcome step.

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