Elections In Jammu And Kashmir? Sources Say Centre May Begin Dialogue

Sources told NDTV that the government "may initiate engagement process with the political parties and may discuss statehood and elections".

The Gupkar Alliance has indicated its willingness to join talks with the Centre.

Srinagar:

The Centre is likely to begin dialogue with the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir to initiate the political process and restoration of statehood, sources have said. While there has been no formal invitation yet, the Gupkar Alliance or PAGD, the seven-party amalgam formed to help restore the special status of Jammu and Kashmir -- has indicated its willingness to join talks. The National Conference has said it might join the delimitation process.

Jammu and Kashmir was placed under President's Rule after the BJP ended its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti in June 2018. There has been no political process since. In August 2019, the Centre ended the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union territories.

There was an expectation that the state elections would be held in tandem with the national elections in 2019, but the Election Commission negated it, citing an administration report that said there was a security risk. 

Today, sources told NDTV that the government "may initiate engagement process with the political parties and may discuss statehood and elections".

National Conference patriarch and Gupkar Alliance chief Farooq Abdullah said they are not averse to dialogue. The Alliance, formed in August last year, has been inactive for over six months over internal differences. But on Wednesday last Farooq Abdullah visited People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti at her home and had a discussion with her and other Gupkar alliance members.

Indication of a possible dialogue with Kashmiri leadership has come in the wake of US Congressional hearing in which a top Biden administration official said that the US is encouraging the Indian Government to take electoral steps in Kashmir.

"Kashmir is one area where we have urged them to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, including we've seen some steps taken: The release of prisoners, the restoration of 4G access, things of that nature. There are other electoral steps we'd like to see them take and that we have encouraged them to do and will continue to do so,"  Dean Thompson, Acting Assistant of State for South and Central Asia said during a Congressional hearing, reports PTI.

The Centre had held local bodies elections in the Union Territory in December in which the Gupkar Alliance won more than 100 seats and the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 74 seats. The Congress has won 27 seats.

The alliance said the polls were a referendum on the scrapping of Article 370, as cited by the BJP, but the results were indications that the people have rejected the scrapping of Article 370 and the BJP narrative on it.

The Gupkar Declaration was signed on August 4, 2019, after an all-party meeting at the Gupkar Road residence National Conference patriarch Farooq Abdullah.

It marked a resolution of attending regional parties and the Congress to protect Jammu and Kashmir's special constitutional status and fight against any move to dilute it.