Mr Narendra Modi, BJP general secretary on Autonomy
Autonomy Means Partition
Interview by Bhaskar Roy
Is not the BJP in a dilemma? On the one hand it is protesting Farooq Abdullahs autonomy resolution. And on the other, it wants his National Conference in government.
There are certain issues--or I should rather say themes--which cannot be weighed on a political scale. National integrity is one such subject. It is better to keep it above daily politics. The resolution passed in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly poses a clear threat to the countrys unity. It is a call for another partition. In view of the seriousness of the issue, it is better not to look at it as an intra-NDA problem. It calls for a larger perspective. The entire political spectrum seems to have realised the danger contained in the proposal. The mistake during the Kargil conflict is not being repeated.
The BJP dichotomy is evident. You are speaking one language and Home Minister Advani another. The party is opposed to Farooqs proposals and yet the Constitution review commission is supposed to look at issues like devolution and overcentralisation.
The BJP has only one face and is speaking one language. We are not playing any double-game. In Jammu and Kashmir we did not fight the last elections in alliance with the National Conference. The BJP won two Lok Sabha seats but polled the highest number of votes in the state. In terms of votes polled the NC came second and the Congress third. So arithmetically speaking, the NC is pushing the autonomy agenda on the basis of the 25 per cent of the votes it polled in the parliamentary elections.
If you go by the density of population per assembly constituency, one seat in the Jammu region where we won most of our seats, is equal to two in the Kashmir valley.
Do you agree that our system is overcentralised? That some of Farooqs demands were earlier raised by other chief ministers as well? That the BJP supported some of those demands?
India has a federal structure. This system is sustained as much by assertion of rights as responsibility; both play an equally important role. The nature of Abdullahs demands raises suspicion. It is unfortunate he did not think of India, of the consequences of his proposal. He laid the responsibility of his own failures at the door of the Centre. Why did we fail in areas like development, financial management, tourism, law and order? Because we did not have autonomy--this seems to be his argument and this argument is absurd. Jammu and Kashmir gets fourteen times the assistance of a big state like Bihar. Still other states, despite their problems, have never thought of questioning their integration into the country. And Farooq Sahib for all practical purposes is proposing to break away from it! He will realise soon what a blunder he has made on the autonomy package. We would have appreciated it if he had gone to the Constitution review commission to plead his case and submitted a paper about his demand. He could have called a meeting of the countrys senior leaders in Srinagar about devolution. No one would have questioned or suspected his motives. But he preferred to keep everybody in the dark and went ahead with his dangerous proposals.
How do you think the Centre will respond to his proposal?
Given the arithmetic of the present Parliament it is not difficult to visualize its fate. There is no chance of the resolution being passed by either House of Parliament.
Is not the BJP a victim of its own rhetoric about a new coalition culture, of embracing regional forces? And then one morning you discover that one of your allies is not playing the ball according to the rules?
We would like to define our ideology as patriotism. We are committed to principles like smaller states and devolution. That is why we supported the Sarkaria Commission. Our prime minister has held frequent meetings of the inter-state council and is trying to make it evolve as a new forum for decentralisation. Some of the major decisions of the Vajpayee government will benefit the states regarding their share of income tax and uniform sales tax.
Is it true that Farooq acted under pressure? That it was his way of fighting his political marginalisation in the Valley? And perhaps also his reaction to the Centres new dialogue with the Hurriyat?
This is certainly not true. Greater autonomy was his poll promise, part of the NC manifesto. He fought elections on this issue. That is why he set up a committee two years ago to formulate the proposal. Hurriyat was not an issue at all. For Abdullah the whole move is a cover-up for his failure on all fronts. If the reaction indicates anything it is his alienation. As much in Jammu and Ladakh as in the Valley and outside the state.
What will be the BJPs response to the autonomy move?
The BJP is concerned. We have our own way of articulating our response. But ours is a mature leadership. Atalji took only one chief minister with him to Pokhran and it was Abdullah. He again was with the prime minister at the table for dining with President Clinton. That only shows the prime ministers own stature, his willingness to evolve a new liberal political culture.
But at the same time we are determined to fight this issue in the state assembly and outside. We are going to tell the people how the family rule in the state has ignored Ladakh and Jammu. We have demanded a white paper on central assistance to the state. We observed June 23, Dr SP Mukherjees death anniversary, as Akrosh Divas in the state. It is a measure of the CMs hold over his own party that he had to issue a whip in the assembly for passing the resolution. Perhaps in the absence of the whip his own MLAs would have opposed the resolutionr
Source: The Times of India
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