The aftershocks of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s comments crediting Pakistan for peaceful polls in his state rocked Parliament on Monday, with an in the Lok Sabha and a cornering of the ruling party in the Rajya Sabha.
As temperatures rose in the House, the NDA government distanced itself from Sayeed’s remarks by means of a clarification from home minister Rajnath Singh. The people of the state, security forces and the Election Commission should be given credit for the peaceful polls, Singh declared. “I am saying this with consent from the PM. There had been no secret talk between the PM and the J&K chief minister,” he said.
The 79-year-old CM stood by his comments, however, blaming the media for what he called an exaggeration of his remarks on the November-December assembly polls which saw the highest voter turnout in 25 years.
“What I said, I stand by it,” he said. “The media did not talk about all the positive things I said but made a mountain of a molehill out of my statement.”
“They (Pakistan) could have used their assets, like Hurriyat and militants, to disrupt polls but they allowed democratic process,” Sayeed said on Sunday soon after his swearing-in at Jammu, an event attended by Modi and a selection of the BJP top brass.
The Opposition on Monday went to war over Mufti’s comments, demanding a clarification in Parliament from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The home minister’s clarification that they got instead didn’t cut much ice. “The Prime Minister’s silence is shocking,” KC Venugopal of the Congress said in the Lok Sabha, demanding a resolution to condemn Sayeed’s statement. Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha, seconded his party colleague, saying the entire House should speak in “one voice” against the statement.
In the Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition has a far superior headcount than the ruling NDA, the PDP patron’s statement was described as “showing allegiance to forces which are anti-national”.
The Congress went hammer and tongs in Kashmir too. The party said Sayeed has insulted the state’s people. “Militants killed elected village representatives in the Valley during the polls to spread fear psychosis among the voters. Giving credit to the militants for the smooth conduct of polls is an insult to the people,” Congress MLA from Bandipora Usman Majid said. The party said the killings and bomb attacks during the elections proved that militants were not disposed towards democracy.
Sayeed’s daughter and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the chief minister didn’t say anything wrong. “Mufti Sahib is not a person who makes a remark and later denies having made it. If the separatists have not gone from door to door telling people to boycott those elections, we should acknowledge that.”
PDP parliamentarian Muzaffar Hussain Baigh reportedly resigned from the Lok Sabha, upset over the rocky start to the new coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.
Even hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was disappointed with Sayeed, saying his comments were ridiculous and unrealistic. “The Hurriyat has nothing to do with the government formation.”
(With inputs from HTC, Jammu and agencies)