With just two days to the first phase of the assembly elections, the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are yet to come out with their agenda for polls.
The parties, including National Conference, Congress, People’s Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party, have not released their poll manifestos so far. The delay and selective leaks to the media are already giving rise to speculations. While BJP’s manifesto remains a point of debate as the right wing party is likely to let go of its hardline stance on abrogation of Article 370, PDP and NC manifestos are also awaited as their respective stands on flagship issues like “self-rule and autonomy” are yet to be seen.
When Hindustan Times tried to enquire, all parties came out with a standard reply — the manifestos will be released in no time.
The aim, however, was clear. No party wants to be the first one to list their standard issues. “The wait seems to be a strategic move. Every party wants to see what the other has to say first,” said Gul Wani, head of Political Science department, Kashmir University.
“The manifestos should ideally be out before elections are to be held. It’s a political communication and people need to examine and debate it before they come out to vote,” he added.
According to Wani, the wait is because of the strong “ideological positions that parties in the state have”. “People have known the stands of parties like the Congress, PDP and NC on important issues but with entry of the BJP things have become tricky, from what will their stand on Article 370 be or whether they insist on change of name for the state,” he said. Meanwhile, no party in the state could come out with the dates for releasing respective manifestos.
‘Maybe in a day or two’
BJP media in-charge in the Valley, Altaf Thakur said the manifesto was ready and will be out soon. “May be in a day or two. It can even be after the first phase of the elections is over,” said Thakur. “The party was busy with other things and even the Prime Minister was out of the country,” he added.
The National Conference went a step further. NC spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu said, “Manifesto was ready and was being printed.” He insisted that the NC has not deviated from its traditional stands on issue like autonomy or Article 370.
NC’s coalition partner Congress also had the same answer. “In a day or two. It is in print,” said Saif-ud-din Soz, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief. He, however, refused to give a date for releasing manifesto.
Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said its manifesto was not released so far as the party had to involve all the stakeholders in compiling its poll agenda.
“We had constituted a committee even before the floods but the process got derailed due to the natural calamity. We had to take all stakeholders along and that is why it took time,” said PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhtar.
Akhtar said the manifesto would be out in a day or two. “Our stand on core issues like self-rule and dialogue with Pakistan remains unchanged,” he said. The state will go through five-phase polls on November 25, December 2, 9, 14 and 20 without knowing what each party stands for.