Mehbooba Mufti says not afraid of criticism for going ahead with BJP

Mufti said that PDP will do everything for the welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu: After two-month suspense, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on Friday dropped hints of going ahead with BJP in government formation, saying she was "not afraid" of criticism over it but wanted the Centre to send out a "signal" that it will do "everything" for the welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

She invoked her late father Mufti Sayeed, saying he had "not joined hands with BJP as a party but it was a coalition between the Central government and the people of Jammu and Kashmir" with an aim of benefitting the people of the state.

"For us, the decision taken by my father, if that aim and that aspiration is fulfilled then I am not afraid if people blame me for going with BJP whether they feel good or bad. If people are benefitted then there is no issue," Mehbooba said while launching party's membership drive here.

"When it came to the benefit of people, my father did not care about the party. He rose above everything and joined hands with BJP for the welfare of the people", she said.

Insisting that she was not an "adamant" lady, she said her party leaders want the formation of the government but she will do that when she feels that the bigger aim was fulfilled. And if the aim of forgoing an alliance with BJP is fulfilled, then she has no objection in forming the government, she said.

"If I feel that the aim is fulfilled, which is the need of the hour, situation is not normal in Jammu and Kashmir after Mufti's death. My father did not join hands with BJP as a party. The coalition was between the Central government and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

"If they send such a signal that for the people of Jammu and Kashmir for their welfare they will do everything. It is such a huge country, its treasures would not run empty," Mehbooba said.

She went on to add, "If at any time I feel that they (Centre) have space in their hearts for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and a framework which we have made and they are ready to put colours in that framework, then I do not have any hesitation in becoming Chief Minister of this state would be a matter of honour."

Mehbooba, whose party has 27 MLAs in the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, said "if the promises are not fulfilled and the formation of the government means to keep away from the elections for five years, then she was not ready (to become the Chief Minister).

"If I feel that these are only hollow promises and nothing will come out of it and that our MLAs would become ministers and we would not have to face elections for 4-5 years, then I am not ready (to form the government)," the PDP chief said.

PDP, along with 25-member BJP, ran a coalition government headed by Mufti Sayeed for 10 months before the sudden demise of the then Chief Minister on January 7.

The state is currently under Governor's Rule since January 8 as Mehbooba, seen as successor to her father, did not stake claim for government formation.

"You all are important for me. That is why, instead of taking oath, I have come to meet you," she told her party workers. She said she was not an adamant lady but wants peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

"You saw how two young officers lost their lives," she said apparently referring to the Pampore encounter last month in which two Army Captains were killed while flushing out three terrorists holded up in a government building.

"Yesterday an encounter took place and a child who died in it had scored 98 per cent marks. Why did he pick up weapons if he was good in studies? We have to work to make such an environment where these kids don't take to the gun but work to strengthen this country," she said.

She said her father had a dream of bringing about peace in Jammu and Kashmir to bring an end to the bloodshed.

"People are being killed in fake encounters like that of Machil. Hindu, Muslims are being killed. India and Pakistan, the bloodshed which has going on, has to stop. If Wagah border can become a symbol of peace then why not our borders (in J&K)? Why do they remember nationalism when it comes to making borders friendly with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir" she said.

She said the aim of her party was to motivate any government in Centre to help set up peace in the state. "Mufti sahib had this confidence that he can change the flow and can open Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route. He had this hope that he can make Vajpayee hold talks with Hurriyat. He always used to think about the people of J&K, welfare of India and the betterment of India and Pakistan", Mehbooba said.

She referred to the arrests made by Pakistan in connection with the Pathankot terror attack and said it was a "major achievement" of the Modi government.

"When Mufti joined hands with BJP, his aim was to bring peace between Kashmir and Jammu regions. He used to say that people of Jammu have their own aspirations and that is why they voted for BJP," the PDP chief said.

She said Mufti had joined "a party (BJP) which got such a huge mandate" with the hope that all the works which were left incomplete would be completed, the healing touch policy which PDP started would move ahead, peace would be restored in the state, the state would develop and "the treasury of the country will flow into the state".

Mehbooba said she does not want to be a big leader but her aim was to take forward the aspirations of her father who wanted to showcase Jammu and Kashmir to the whole world as an example of a single Muslim-majority state of India living at peace with the rest of the country.

Mufti Sayeed strongly believed in "the idea of India, the idea where Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and all others could co-exist under the umbrella of our democratic set-up. Irrespective of caste, creed or colour, our democracy provides equal right of vote to everybody and at times with one vote you can make a king or break a government," she said.

She said Sayeed was "so impressed with the democratic set-up of India and that is why he followed the path of Indian democracy at the time when people in Kashmir used to raise voice for plebiscite. At that time, it was a sin in Kashmir to talk about Indian democracy."

The PDP chief said, "People used to say that Mufti sahib is very good and honest man but he is an Indian. But he followed his path and the time came when the people who were favouring plebiscite for 22 years signed an accord in 1975 and followed the path of democracy", an apparent reference to late National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah.

She said that Mufti Sayeed used to tell Prime Minister Narendra Modi that there is no alternative to peace with Pakistan and "we felt very good" when he went to Lahore to meet Nawaz Sharif.

"Dr Manmohan Singh, I know him personally is a very good and honest man and he too wanted to visit Pakistan but he could not as he did not have the massive mandate which Modi enjoys," said Mehbooba, whose party earlier had an alliance with Congress.

Referring to questions raised by some sections over the "benefits" of Modi's visit, Mehbooba said, "I must say that today now Pakistan has arrested all the accused who were involved in Pathankot terrorist attack. Did it happen earlier?"

Noting that Pakistan has said people involved in such attacks were non-state actors, she said, "May be it is right. If they had control on them, then thousands of their own men would not have been killed daily. But yes as you sow so shall you reap."

She said that, "Today one of the biggest achievement of Modi is that because of his Pakistan visit the borders are peaceful."

"We see animosity every day but the need is to see friendship," the PDP chief said about Indo-Pak ties.

Contending that borders need to have schools and hospitals, she said, "but we are making bunkers. But why do we need them (bunkers) in Jammu and Kashmir and not in other places. If peace can be maintained in other parts of the country why not in Jammu and Kashmir?"

She said the cross-LoC trade which was initiated has not been able to flourish.

"My father once told the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi that the state has been restricted to a prison as he wanted roads to open so that trade could flourish on either side of the border," Mehbooba said.

"I must tell you that he had this hope that he can make the leaders in the Centre ready to make Suchetgarh border function on the patterns of Wagah border," she added. She said war was not an option as Pakistan had started the Kargil war but they did not win it.

"We too had deployed our army on borders in 2002 but did we go to war because at that time Atal Behari Vajpayee came to understand that it was better to pull an ear than to cut it out. War is not an option as no war can be decisive as we in India would lose more as we have developed a lot as compared to Pakistan," she said.

She said that PDP joined hands with Congress in 2002 when there was NDA government at the Centre and the party removed POTA but NDA did not say anything.

"Vajpayee extended full support to us. Dr Manmohan Singh also tried but could not take forward the dialogue which was initiated with separatists during Vajpayee's tenure," she said.

She regretted that the dialogue with Pakistan and ceasefire on borders could not be taken forward.

( Source : PTI )
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