Srinagar: National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah Tuesday asserted his party will win the next assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, indicating for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 that his party would participate in the polls.
“We will win and I am telling you this with authority that if they conduct polls in a free and fair manner, then the National Conference will be the biggest party here,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event titled ‘Parliamentary outreach programme for the empowerment Panchayati Raj institutions in Jammu and Kashmir’.
The NC chief, who represents the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, however, regretted his party’s non-participation in the 2018 panchayat polls and the 2019 Block Development Council elections.
“Our party did not contest the polls and I regret it. We should have (contested) and we will in the future, God willing,” the veteran politician said.
Advising Panchayati Raj Institutions members, with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha also present on the dais, Abdullah asked them to remain in touch with the people and listen to their problems, and not behave like bureaucrats who, he said, do not come to the rescue of people.
Expressing anguish over Jammu and Kashmir administration officials not responding to calls of people, Abdullah requested Sinha to instruct them to answer phone calls.
“I have this complaint with the government officials that they do not pick up their phones as if some ghost is hanging upon them,” he said. The MP said he receives calls from anyone because as a doctor he feels that the caller may be in some kind of distress. “I do not ask him to which religion or party he belongs to. I think of him as a human in whose heart God resides,” he said.
Abdullah added that soon a government will be formed which will make officers accountable.
“They will be accountable tomorrow for what they have done. Today, they think of themselves as kings, but they are not kings, they are the servants of people who have to work for the people,” he said.
He said the Union Territory still faces militancy and “God knows what will happen in the future”.
Abdullah requested Lieutenant Governor Sinha to provide security to Panchayat leaders, saying they are being targeted by militants.
“One of the most important things that we have to look after is the security of these panchayat members because they will be the first target (of militants). Politicians will be targeted. We are targeted anyways. (Those) who stand with the nation will have to face those (threats). Do not run away, God is the only protector,” he said.
The NC leader said that it is very important to provide security to political activists as they have to work on the ground.
“Recently, members of the BJP have been killed, another one from the Apni Party. God knows what will happen in the coming days. If a panchayat member or a District Development Council member or a political party has to work, then their security is very important. Otherwise, how will they work and reach their areas,” he said.
Pointing to Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, who was in the audience, Abdullah said while he understands that security cannot be provided to everyone, “but you will have to do something about it”.
“Yesterday, a CPI leader told me that he faces a threat and there is deficiency in his security. So, before he is killed, care must be taken. If we are standing with the country, then it is also the responsibility of the country to take care of our security,” he said.
Abdullah’s remarks received a huge round of applause from the members of Panchayati Raj Institutions.
Asked whether he sees any improvement in Jammu and Kashmir after August 5, 2019 – when the Centre revoked the erstwhile state’s special status, the NC president said the people should judge themselves.
“You should see yourselves what changes have come. Has our situation become better, has any progress been achieved, has there been any development, you have to see for yourselves. If I say something, then they will say that he is from opposition and will say what the opposition parties are saying,” he said.
To a question about the impact of the situation in Afghanistan, Abdullah said the situation was no better in any of the neighbouring countries of India. “Where in our neighbourhood is the situation better? How is the situation in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Maldives? If we say the situation in any of our neighbouring country is normal, no it is not,” he said.
“The impact of the Taliban will surely be there somewhere. How much it will be I do not know and where it will be, how much its impact will be on America or Russia or China, I do not know,” Abdullah said.