Union minister Smriti Irani has accused the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration of not extending voting powers to refugees from Pakistan, who have pride in the Indian flag. The comment was also a rebuke to former ally Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party or the PDP, who had said that she would not hoist the Indian flag till the government restored the special status and flag to Jammu and Kashmir.
“When the Gupkar gang had power, they never gave the right to vote to the refugees. But Prime Minister Modi understood that the families who chose Hindustan over Pakistan should get the right to go and vote,” said Ms Irani, one of the star speakers of the BJP for the DDC local body elections.
The controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which gives voting rights to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring countries who are living in India, was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir after the erstwhile state came under Central rule.
“These parties don’t unite when the people need them,” Ms Irani said, referring to the People’s Alliance.
The coalition of local parties of Jammu and Kashmir, which had been dominating elections in the Kashmir Valley, had united to press for reinstatement of the state’s special status granted under the Constitution, which was scrapped in August last year by the Centre. The parties are now contesting the local elections, which has upped the political heat in the newly formed Union Territory.
Attacking vice-president of the People’s Alliance Mehbooba Mufti for her earlier statement, Ms Irani declared, “Ask the refugees the pride (they) felt in hoisting the national flag.”
The ongoing eight-phase DDC elections are the first to be held in the Union Territory after the reorganisation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir last year. It is also the first since the BJP ended its ruling alliance with Mehbooba Mufti in June 2018 and Central rule was imposed in the state.
There was high expectation that fresh state elections would be held alongside last year’s national elections, but the Election Commission had nixed the possibility citing security concerns.
This election – the first in more than two years — is being bitterly contested between the BJP and the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, which has seen the state’s key political leaders Farooq Abdullah and his arch-rival Mehbooba Mufti and Sajjad Lone join hands.
The BJP leaders have termed them the “Gupkar gang” – accusing them of being anti-national, especially after Mr Abdullah’s speech in parliament in September advocating talks with Pakistan.
The coalition has been accused of getting “foreign forces to intervene” in the issue of scrapping of Article 370, taking away the rights of women and Dalits and bringing back “terror and turmoil” in the Union Territory.
The BJP has also demanded that Mehbooba Mufti be charged with sedition for her comment on the tricolour.