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SOURCE: THE HINDU

Twenty months after the Centre ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional position, a serious spadework is on, for the first time, to rope in the mainstream political parties of the Union Territory (UT), especially Kashmir-based grouping Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), to engage with New Delhi and meet the top leadership of the ruling BJP in the coming weeks.

Top sources privy to the parleys on the backchannels told The Hindu that “people mandated by the Centre are in touch with the top leaders of the regional political parties of J&K for many weeks”. It included the region’s oldest political party National Conference (NC), whose president Farooq Abdullah also heads the Gupkar alliance.

Besides, Peoples Conference’s Sajad Lone and J&K Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari may also be taken on board to make a headway in Kashmir, where the situation has not changed favourably since the August 5, 2019 move by the Centre to abrogate all special provisions of Article 370.

Even the bid to dislodge and discredit the traditional leaders and create a new crop of leadership in Kashmir has not yielded any desired results till date, which was evident during the District Development Council polls last year.

J&K leaders may visit Delhi

Sources say if all goes well, Jammu and Kashmir’s leaders are likely to travel to New Delhi and hold a meeting with the top BJP leadership. The talks are likely to revolve around the return of Statehood status to the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and the early Assembly election for now.

Jammu and Kashmirremains under the Centre’s rule since 2018, after the BJP pulled out of an alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Open to talks: Farooq

Meanwhile, Dr. Abdullah had dropped broad hints and showed his readiness to engage after the Gupkar alliance partners met at the official residence of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in Srinagar on June 9.

“We have not closed any doors (for talks). If invited, we may look into it,” Dr. Abdullah told the reporters, in a very disjointed remark.

Sources said all the five parties, associated with the Gupkar alliance, including the PDP, did discuss the offer of engagement from New Delhi.

Delimitation process

Dr. Abdullah has already softened his position on the delimitation and is likely to engage in the process set off to create more constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the Assembly poll.

The NC’s MPs, who have abstained from the commission’s meeting so far, are likely to be allowed to make recommendations and “will be given due consideration”, sources said.

Ms. Mufti, whose uncle and PDP general secretary Sartaj Madani, close aide Naeem Akhtar and party youth wing president Waheed-ur-Rehmaan Parra remain behind the bars, has also shared her viewpoint on the subject and has stressed the need “to prove the intention” ahead of any grand optics.

If the outreach by the Centre manages to get the regional parties from Jammu and Kashmir onboard for a meeting with the top leadership, it is also likely to ease pressure off from Prime Minister Narendra Modi from international and neighbouring countries on the issue of Kashmir.

Any move to allow local parties to express their politics again will be seen as a confidence building measure both in Srinagar as well as Islamabad.