The Peoples Democratic Party has authorised its President Mehbooba Mufti to take a call on Centre’s invitation to political parties in Jammu and Kashmir for a meeting on June 24, PTI reported. The meeting will be held to discuss the process of redrawing Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in the Union Territory.
The political affairs committee of the Peoples Democratic Party met on Sunday at Mufti’s home to decide on whether they would respond to the Centre’s call. PDP chief spokesperson Syed Suhail Bukhari said that Mufti will decide on the party’s stand, followed by a meeting of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.
The Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference has also agreed on a similar course of action. Following a meeting between Abdullah and other senior party members, a collective decision will be taken by the member parties of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a party leader told PTI.
Later on Sunday afternoon, reports suggested that the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration will send two representatives to the meeting. However, there is no official confirmation on the matter yet.
“We have stressed for a collective fight and hence People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration will send two representatives for the meeting in New Delhi,” an unidentified leader, who attended the PDP meeting, told News18. Sources within the National Conference said Abdullah would be one of the representatives.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a tie-up of six parties, was formed in October with the agenda of reinstating the abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which provided special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Sunday said that the Centre should accept the demand for restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir in the interest of the Constitution and democracy.
“We believe that undoing it [statehood] is a direct attack on democracy and the constitutional principles,” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters.
He, however, did not say anything on whether the party will attend the June 24 meeting.
The Centre had abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019, and split the erstwhile state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Curfews and internet blockades were imposed in the region after that.
Meeting between Centre and J&K parties
The June 24 meeting could be the first step towards holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Centre had, in February 2020, begun the process of delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. A Delimitation Commission was set up in March under the leadership of retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai. The chief election commissioner of India and Jammu and Kashmir election commissioner are the ex-officio members of the commission.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which was passed by Parliament in August 2019 and came into effect in October 2019, Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislative Assembly while the Union Territory of Ladakh will not. The reorganisation act had stipulated that the number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir state Assembly will be raised from 107 to 114 and delimitation will provide for reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The meeting also marks the Narendra Modi-led government’s first major outreach to Kashmiri political leaders since it scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.
Almost all of Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including Mufti, Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, were put under detention following the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Farooq Abdullah was released from detention on March 13, 2020. Omar Abdullah’s detention was also revoked over a week later. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was released in July, while Mufti’s detention ended on October 13.