Senior PDP leader Sameer Kaul concedes the point that BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will be a factor in the Lok Sabha elections but it will be restricted to the Jammu region only. In a wide-ranging interview to HT, he rules out any alliance with the BJP and hints at a tie-up with the Congress after the assembly elections.
The National Conference has alleged the PDP has a secret understanding with the BJP. Would you support the BJP after the Lok Sabha elections?
Secret meetings and alliances are options for political desperadoes who would do anything to keep clinging to unholy power. The NC was an ally of the BJP and withdrew from the NDA months after the Gujarat riots and just before the 2002 assembly elections. I can assure you nothing will happen against the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Will Narendra Modi be a factor in the Lok Sabha or assembly elections in J&K?
Narender Modi’s popularity will have no impact in Kashmir and Ladakh. However, there will be moderate impact in Doda, Kishtwar, Udhampur and Jammu.
Is there a possibility of a PDP-Congress alliance once again after the next assembly elections, given that the two parted ways on a bitter note in 2008?
Political ideologies of both parties have much in common. In fact, the PDP was born to fill up a large, dangerous void that existed in J&K politics. A lot of water has flown down the Jhelum ever since the parting of the ways, which was a result of political mischief. Both parties, I presume, would be a lot wiser now and misconceptions of the past cleared. If a partnership seems fruitful in terms of ushering in stability, peace and progress in the beleaguered state then, why not?
Are there any back-channel talks going on in this regard?
I am not surprised at grassroots political workers of the Congress desiring some sort of collaboration with us. But to the best of my knowledge no such overt or covert discussions have ensued at the higher level so far.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is planning to go national. Do you see it making some impact on J&K’s electoral politics?
The apparently sustained yearning for change in political discourse and governance has resulted in the growth of this ‘other factor’. You call it the AAP while regional forces would like to label it part of the ‘third front’. The heart and mind of the youth in Kashmir and Ladakh are in consonance with their counterparts in the rest of the country. Given the insecurity and sense of alienation that exists, the AAP brand of uninhibited mass-based activist politics will never be allowed to take ground or flourish there since it cannot be adequately controlled, monitored or even manipulated.
Your comments on AAP leader Prashant Bhushan’s purported remarks on referendum on the army’s presence in J&K?
His remarks were largely misquoted, misrepresented and misunderstood.
He never questioned the army’s legitimate presence along the line of control but merely expressed his opinion regarding the withdrawal of troops from urban areas. Everyone in this country has the freedom of expression, no matter how ridiculous. Debates and viewpoints are on but a lynch mob belongs to medieval times.
What is the current status of Kashmiri Pandits in J&K’s political and social firmament?
Currently traversing the harsh aftermath of two decades of violence in Kashmir, they have yet to achieve closure and move on. Accepting the fact that Kashmiri Muslims too have suffered immensely is central to the spirit of reconciliation. Bigots in all communities need to be thwarted from overrunning moderate progressive free thinkers among them.