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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Create political space, mobilise people: NC's Srinagar candidate on restoring Article 370

"First encourage our people to express their opinion and then mobilise that opinion and create that political space where people can speak about it and stand for their rights," Mehdi, an influential Shia leader, said.
Last Updated : 11 May 2024, 15:26 IST
Last Updated : 11 May 2024, 15:26 IST

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Srinagar: Create a political space, mobilise people, find forces in the country who can ally with us and unite — this is National Conference (NC) candidate from the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi's roadmap for restoration of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We need to fight it politically, we need to mobilise people," Mehdi told PTI in an interview.

"First encourage our people to express their opinion and then mobilise that opinion and create that political space where people can speak about it and stand for their rights," Mehdi, an influential Shia leader, said.

The NC leader, a three-time former MLA from Budgam assembly segment, is the party's candidate from Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency which has been represented by three generations of the Abdullahs.

He said the leadership needs to reach out to the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir to mobilise them and drum up support for the restoration of the special status which was revoked by the Centre on August 5, 2019.

"It is not about the party cadre only, it is not about a particular party, it is about entire Jammu and Kashmir. We need to reach out to them, we need to give them that energy and that strength and with that mobilisation, we need to take our cause to the government of India with the strength like other campaigns in the rest of the nation," he added.

Mehdi said the leadership then needs to take the political mobilisation and opinion of the people to the rest of India and find allies.

"We need to find like-minded parties like those in south who want a federal India, who want stronger states. We need to find like-minded parties and forces with whom we can join forces and one day, find ways for our dignity to be returned. Who knows, in the course of restoring or making India a greater or stronger federal structure, we may get our dignity, our rights back because what south India espouses for is no different than from what we had and what Bengal and the northeast espouse for is no different from what we had," he said.

He said the opinion in support of the restoration of Article 370 needs to be brought up from the grassroots to the national level to 'get our dignity and rights back'.

Mehdi, who has been a strong votary of unity among the political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir, said electoral competitions aside, it is imperative to stand united for the 'bigger cause'.

He had expressed displeasure after the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of various political parties seeking restoration of special status, broke apart as NC and PDP could not come to a seat-sharing arrangement for the polls and announced to contest separately.

"PAGD or any other nomenclature that you want to have, the people of Jammu and Kashmir need unity," he said.

He said "we have a bigger cause, which is bigger than these electoral competitions."

'We need to stand and unite ourselves for that bigger cause and objective. So, PAGD has to unite again. If all the constituents of the PAGD are honest towards that cause, towards the people of J-K, we can forget whatever happened in this election. We had electoral competition, nothing lost. We can reunite and focus ourselves towards the cause that we have and that cause is bigger, it is larger than these objectives, electoral objectives," Mehdi said.

The former minister said he envisions the PAGD getting together in the future.

"PAGD or any other name, unity among the people of J-K is incumbent upon us. We cannot avoid it if we want to espouse for that cause," he added.

Asked if the alliance among PAGD parties could be cobbled up for the assembly elections then, he said 'if everything goes well, maybe'.

"If PDP looks inside, inwards and introspects, and the same goes with the NC and I can assure that. But, if the PDP also has that introspection, and finds why the individuals created an atmosphere in that political party which destroyed that unity and brought that animosity," he said.

Blaming certain leaders in the PDP for working at the behest of the 'establishment' to break the PAGD, Mehdi asked 'who was the individual or the individuals which were given a task by the forces or establishment in Delhi to break the unity and PAGD'.

The NC candidate said he can work towards unity among the political leadership in J-K.

"If they (PDP) do that introspection, if they have that realisation, I can try create that atmosphere, but only if they are honest. If the individual, those who were successful in breaking the PAGD have free hand in that party, I will be helpless. I have a certain control over how I can make opinion or shape opinion in my party, but I do not have control over how opinion is shaped in PDP. So, they need to be serious, they need to be honest and I can be a helping hand if they honestly espouse for the cause," he added.

Talking about his fallout with the party leadership, Mehdi said he had his reasons to have that disagreement with the party and 'today if I feel somewhere that I need to express my disagreement, I will still do'.

"But, one thing is very encouraging that the party as a whole not only accommodated me, it gave respect to my dissent and my disagreements and we are in the process of correcting the course," he said.

He said the party leadership has asserted that there could be disagreements in the approach, but the objective is same.

"That is an encouragement for me, a positive for me and that keeps this relation intact. As long as we espouse for the same cause, we may have different approaches, it does not matter," he said.

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Published 11 May 2024, 15:26 IST

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