“It’s unfortunate I am branded as communal”Apr 28th, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Interviews
Mehbooba Mufti, the firebrand President of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is, of late, isolated in the political arena because of what some describe as the “communal” overtones of her politics. She was recently elected to the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly after serving as MP from South Kashmir. Ms. Mehbooba is credited with bringing her father out of a decades-long political hibernation in 2002. She is busy campaigning for her party’s candidates, where she focuses on the resolution of the Kashmir issue. She spoke to SHUJAAT BUKHARI
The status quo will not help solve any problem. It has to change.
How different are these elections?
These are certainly different. In Assembly elections, people are concerned about day to day problems and in parliamentary elections, about larger issues. This time people also feel dejected as the coalition government headed by Omar Abdullah has not been able make an impression on the ground. That also makes people lose interest in the exercise.
What will be the turnout?
I am apprehensive about the turnout. When we came to government in 2002, the turnout in subsequent elections in 2004 was high and even in municipal elections held after many years the turnout even crossed 70 per cent. That is precisely because our government worked for the people. People did defy the boycott call in December. This time they may not because there is no [such] atmosphere.
But the issues are almost same in this election as well.
Since this is a parliamentary election, it is about larger political issues. And in the case of Kashmir, political resolution is more important than even day-to-day problems as they want security of life that can only come with political stability. Our issues are clear. We are talking about self-rule, demilitarisation, restoring ties with Pakistan and withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. You cannot disconnect yourself from the ground realities.
Many people believe that the PDP is pursuing a communal and secessionist agenda.
It is very unfortunate to see us through this prism. When any leader in Jammu and Kashmir talks about keeping in mind the aspirations of people, they are branded in the manner you describe. As far as self-rule is concerned, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked about it in the Round Table Conference saying it can be discussed. [Former Pakistani President] Pervez Musharraf also talked about it. It is about unification of the State without compromising the sovereignty of any country. It is very clear that status quo will not help solve any problem. It has to change.
But why you are branded as communal then?
Again, I would say it is unfortunate. If you try to defend your own people you are branded like that. Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state; you cannot wish that away. And if you talk about interests of people, it will be obviously for the majority generally. Though we do not see this on those lines and are equally concerned about other people in all the three regions.
With whom you will go? Is Congress still an option?
See it is not a question of only two parties, the Congress and the BJP. Their space is shrinking in this country and regional leaders and parties are coming up. See the performance of Mayawati, Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar, Jayalalithaa, Chandrababu Naidu and others.
They are really changing India, reconciling with the fact what people want, rather than getting engaged in politics about “so called” secularism and communalism. I think people have realised the Congress and BJP politics and they have decided to cast their lot with regional and other parties.