Narendra Modi to chair all-party meet on Jammu and Kashmir on 24 June; ‘better late than never’, say parties

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to chair a meeting with all political parties from Jammu and Kashmir on 24 June as part of the Centre’s initiatives to bolster political processes, including holding Assembly elections, in the Union Territory, officials said on Friday.

The meeting — the first such exercise since the Centre announced the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its bifurcation into union territories in August 2019 — is likely to be attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders.

The central leadership has begun the process of inviting National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah, PDP chairperson Mehbooba Mufti, Altaf Bukhari of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), and People’s Conference head Sajjad Lone for the discussion, the officials said.

Mehbooba told PTI on Friday night that she had received a call from the Centre for a meeting on 24 June. “I am yet to take a decision. I will discuss with my party members and take a final call,” she said.

Both Abdullah and Mehbooba had served as chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Asked about the prospect of talks with the Centre, CPM leader and spokesperson of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) MY Tarigami said there has been no word from New Delhi, but added that if it happens, it would be welcomed.

“We have never closed our doors for meaningful engagement with the Centre. Though I have no information about any dialogue, if it happens, it will be welcomed,” Tarigami told PTI from Srinagar.

The PAGD is an alliance of some parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including the NC and the PDP, that was formed in the aftermath of the Centre’s August 2019 decisions.

JKAP president Bukhari said, “I welcome, if and when, the talks take place. This vindicates our position of March 2020 when we had made it clear that dialogue is the only mechanism to restore democracy and statehood for Jammu and Kashmir.”

“Better late than never as the solution to all our problems lies with New Delhi and nowhere else,” he added.

The Jammu and Kashmir units of the BJP and the Congress are also likely to be part of these discussions, which are being seen as part of efforts to strengthen normal political processes in the union territory.

The officials said the delimitation commission under the leadership of Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai, which was set up immediately after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in Parliament, is likely to expedite its work and submit its report. The commission was set up in February 2020 and has been given an extension of one year in March this year.

Barring Bukhari, other leaders have served a spell of detention following the August 2019 decision of the Centre to abrogate special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the erstwhile state into union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

In the District development Council election last year, the PAGD surged way ahead of the BJP and its allies, including the JKAP, by bagging 110 seats out of 280 with the National Conference emerging stronger with 67 seats within the alliance. The BJP was the single largest party with 75 seats.

The political mainstream of the union territory, especially those having a strong base in Kashmir Valley, have been critical of successive administrations of the union territory for neglecting the demands of the people and raising questions on the development slogan raised post August 2019.

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