It’s bizarre: Chidambaram hits out at Centre for insisting on polls in J&K before restoring statehood

A day after the all-party meet between political representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader P Chidambaram hit out at the Centre for prioritising elections over the issue of statehood.

“Congress and other J&K parties and leaders want Statehood first and Elections afterward. Government’s response is Elections first and Statehood later,” Chidambaram tweeted.

“The horse pulls the cart. A state must conduct elections. Only such elections will be free and fair. Why does the government want the cart in front and the horse behind? It is bizarre,” he added in a subsequent tweet.

At the all-party meet which took place at the Prime Minister’s official residence in the national capital J&K political outfits unanimously demanded that J&K’s statehood be restored. The Prime Minister is said to have emphasised on the need to carry out free and fair elections for strengthening “grassroots democracy”.

“Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory,” PM Modi tweeted after the meeting ended.

Union home minister Amit Shah assured the leaders present that statehood would be restored once the delimitation exercise is completed and fresh elections are held.

“The future of Jammu & Kashmir was discussed and the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in Parliament,” Shah said.

This is the first such meeting between the Centre and local representatives of J&K since the bifurcation exercise of 2019. Along with the Prime Minister and the home minister, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha were also in attendance.

Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad who was also present in the meeting said the party has put forth five demands, “the first is that the dissolution of the state into union territories was carried out without the consent of the elected representatives so statehood should be restored. We have also asked for conducting elections to the Vidhan Sabha, rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits and protection of domicile rules.”

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