Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday regretted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was making withdrawal of sedition charges against Kashmiri students in Meerut an election issue.
Participating in the two-day India Today conclave here, Omar said if youngsters from any other part of the country would have cheered for Pakistan, it would not have been noticed. "But the fact is that these people are from Kashmir automatically changes the context,"he said.
Omar said the students should not be confused about their identity, but even if they are confused, it does not call for slapping of sedition charge.
"The university has taken administrative action against them. And it should have been allowed to rest there,"he said.
The chief minister said his worry now was that the BJP was making it an election issue. "Sixty-seven kids becoming pawn to what is turning out to be pretty messy election is pretty unfortunate,"he said.
He was referring to the recent incident where Kashmir students were slapped with sedition charges for cheering for the Pakistani cricket team during a recent match with India, but the charges were later withdrawn by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Omar also categorically rejected the idea of joining the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after the general elections and made it clear that his party National Conference (NC) was an ally of the NDA earlier only because of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"Our decision to join the NDA was only because of Vajpyee. We don't see anybody in the BJP today who is coming even close to what he was, and therefore, the question of the NC aligning with the NDA simply does not arise."
Talking about the general situation in the state, the chief minister said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir may not be normal, but they are beginning to be a "lot closer to be normal".
Asked what would be his message for young Kashmiris, Omar, 43, said "I want to take out the uncertainty in their lives. The fact that they have been brought up on the diet of uncertainty - about the future of Kashmir and about their own future."
The chief minister said slapping of sedition charges against the Kashmiri students in Meerut was "over-callous".
"While what they did was misguided, I would go as far as saying that what they did was wrong. On one hand, they are taking scholarship from the Indian Prime Minister and on the other hand cheering on like this."
But having said that, the chief minister said, cheering for a cricket team is not illegal. "It is this what makes this country great. I doubt whether something like this would be tolerated in our immediate neighbourhood,"he said.
"But it is the way we value our right to speech and if their free speech involved cheering another team so be it. I mean when our people go to Pakistan and Pakistani cheer Indian team we absolutely feel really great about it,"he said.
To a question whether he feared that if the BJP government came to the Centre it would abolish Article 370, Omar made it absolutely clear: "They can't touch Article 370 without the consent of the state.... It is a convenient tool that they (BJP) use during election and even shy away from discussion."
He referred to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's speech in Jammu earlier this year, where he had sought a discussion on the Article 370 to see whether it was beneficial or a burden on the state.
"and no sooner I replied back that I am ready for a discussion, name the time and the place and I will be there, the answer from the other side came that he is too busy and anyway you (Omar) are not important enough,"he said.
"So if that be the case, then that shows how seriously they want to discuss the issue,"he added.
He rejected a suggestion that there was a "Modi wave", but said there was definitely some effect.
"A wave would be what you saw Rajiv Gandhi get after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, that is a wave and that is certainly not what Narendra Modi is trying to get in this parliamentary election,"observed Omar.
He said there was enthusiasm among the BJP cadre that was translating into more sort of visible election activity on the part of the BJP from which he would probably benefit.
Omar said the final results might not be good for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), but things could turn around. "I wish I had a crystal ball but I don't,"he said on the possible poll outcome.