PDP supports INDIA bloc on ideological basis, Constitution must be guarded: Mehbooba Mufti

JAMMU — Despite fielding her party’s candidates against the National Conference on three Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday said her party continues to be a part of INDIA bloc on ideological basis and agrees with it on the need to safeguard the Constitution.

The NC, also a part of the INDIA bloc, has put up three candidates on Srinagar, Baramulla, and Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seats after reaching an agreement with the Congress, which has put up its candidates in Jammu, Udhampur, and Ladakh.

The PDP, however, was not given any seat and the party subsequently decided to fight elections against NC on the valley seat, while extending its support to Congress in the Jammu region.

Mehbooba herself is in the fray from the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat which is going to polls in the sixth phase on May 25. She is likely to get a stiff fight from NC former minister and influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf and Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Khan Manhas, who is backed by BJP.

There are 17 other candidates in the fray from the constituency.

Talking to reporters in the Rajouri town, the PDP president said she supports INDIA alliance on ideological basis as Rahul Gandhi is the only leader who is working to safeguard the Constitution.

“The Constitution is the foundation of our country and we need (to protect) it desperately as otherwise no rights will be left with us. They (BJP) not only want to change the Constitution but also finish the reservation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, notwithstanding what they are saying,” Mehbooba, a former J&K chief minister, said.

On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that he never uttered a word against the minorities in his election rallies, she said, “He can take a U-turn because he is the Prime Minister … The reality is that BJP has fallen so low after feeling that their 400-plus seats target is not achievable and their Hindu-Muslim narrative has found no takers among the voters.”

She said the Congress’s manifesto which talks about generating employment for youth and women empowerment, has frightened the BJP.

Without naming either the NC or the Appni Party, the PDP president alleged that an atmosphere of fear has been created in Rajouri by two parties, one of which has issued a ‘fatwa’ (decree) that hell awaits those who do not vote for a particular candidate, while the other is using official machinery to blackmail the voters.

“It is wrong to play ‘Peer-Mureed’ (spiritual leader and disciple), which is a noble relationship not driven by vote bank politics … Religion should not be brought into politics,” Mehbooba said, referring to Mian Altaf, who is revered by Gujjars as their spiritual leader.

Referring to the Apni Party, she said it is taking cover behind the BJP to blackmail people and calling up officers and threatening them with transfers.

“What I observed after meeting various delegations, one community (Gujjars) is afraid of the ‘fatwa’ politics, and the other (Pahari) community fears being harassed at the hands of the administration if it openly come out in support of PDP.

“The BJP knows very well that the parties it is backing will lose their deposit in Kashmir. Their only aim is to keep Mehbooba away from parliament,” she said.

Mehbooba also said all developmental work being done by his father, Mufti Mohammed Syed, also a former J&K CM, is being done away with. “The standard of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University is falling with the induction of contractual professors, while the cross-LoC trade remains suspended from 2019.”

She said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent two-day visit to Kashmir has raised some concerns in the valley as people fear a repeat of 1987 when there was mass rigging to benefit a particular party.

“They are afraid of PDP because we are raising people’s issues. We have observed a slow pace in the PDP-dominated areas during voting in Srinagar Lok Sabha seat (took place on May 13). I also have reservations over some polling stations here (Rajouri),” she said.

Mehbooba alleged that the recent two terror attacks in south Kashmir were an attempt to create fear among the voters in Anantnag seat and to harm her party.

She said the record voter turnout in Srinagar and Baramulla seats should be seen as a message to New Delhi, and that says: “We are angry with your decisions and these are not acceptable to us.” — (PTI)