Srinagar: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday said she would not hesitate to step down if commitments made in the Agenda of Alliance with BJP do not materialise and the chair becomes an "impediment" in fulfilling her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's "vision" for Jammu and Kashmir.
In her first address as Chief Minister in the Assembly, she noted that safeguarding Article 370 that gives special status to the state was included in the Agenda, which was "no small feat". She also defended the demand for self-rule for restoration of peace in the state, saying it was "not a sin" and fingers should not be pointed at BJP on inclusion of several of its provisions in their common programme.
"The chair will not be my weakness. I will continue in the chair till I feel it is my strength. If I feel it has become my weakness I will not continue.
"The commitments I have made which are part of Agenda of Alliance, if those Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) materialise well and good. If not what is a big deal...I have assumed this chair to fulfill the vision of my father," Mehbooba said while replying to the motion of thanks to Governor's address in the Assembly.
In a point-by-point rebuttal of the opposition's criticism, the Chief Minister said her father's vision was to find ways for taking Jammu and Kashmir out of the difficult situation it finds itself in.
On her party's self rule formula for resolution of Kashmir issue, she said it was in the benefit of both India and Pakistan and most of its features were part of the recommendations made by the Prime Minister's working group set up in 2005.
"We have all signed it (working group recommendations). The joint mechanism was also discussed in these recommendations which envisaged 10 representatives from both the countries meeting twice every year. Self rule is not a sin that you will point fingers at BJP time and again on it.
"It is in the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Pakistan and the subcontinent if the state prospers and there is peace. It can become an example for conflict resolution around the world," Mehbooba said.
She said the biggest failure of leadership in the state as well as the national level has been the inability to bring the Valley and Jammu regions closer.
"Article 370 of Indian constitution guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu as well as Kashmir have the same right under this provision. However, a perception has been created as if this provision is anti- Jammu," she said.
Mehbooba said inclusion of safeguarding the Article 370 in the Agenda of Alliance between her PDP and BJP was no small feat.
"Although no one can repeal Article 370, do you want them (BJP) to repeal it," she asked the opposition.
Advocating good relations between India and Pakistan,
Mehbooba said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the worst sufferers of any hostility between the two countries.
"Good relations for Pakistan are necessary for Jammu and Kashmir. Border people get affected when there is firing. The people living near the border in Jammu are the first sufferers and then it spreads to other border areas," she said.
Mehbooba said good relations with Pakistan would not only benefit the people of Kashmir only but the entire state.
Praising former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his peace initiatives with Pakistan, Mehbooba said, "We had ceasefire along the borders and there was peace and infiltration figures also dropped. Even Pakistan at that time said it will not allow its soil to be used against India. Unfortunately, Vajpayee ji did not return in 2004 (polls)".
The Chief Minister said it needs courage like Vajpayee or Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Pakistan as the latter "strolled" into the neighbouring country.
"Manmohan Singh during his time as Prime Minister wanted to visit Pakistan...He was from there. However, he could not visit due to the demonization (of relations with Pakistan)," she said.
Stressing that there was scope for cooperation with Pakistan which will benefit both the countries, she said, "They need electricity which we can provide. We need gas which we can get from there."
Mufti said the Centre has sanctioned two AIIMS hospitals, one at Awantipora (Kashmir) and one in Samba (Jammu), and two smart cities. They have received an initial grant of Rs 1 crore for preparing detailed project reports for smart cities.
Opposition leader Omar Abdullah interrupted her seeking a correction in her statement on the smart cities. "Please don't mislead the House. You said two smart cities have been sanctioned but the order says two cities from Jammu and Kashmir will go through the competition process," he said.
"It is an assurance to me from the PM," she said.
She also hit out at NC for handing over power projects to NHPC when it was in power and said they were trying to bring back some of the projects.
On the charge that extension of NEET to the state was a "compromise" on the special status, she said the MCI Act was extended to the state in 1960 which brought the functioning of medical colleges under its purview.
"However, only students who are state subjects will be given admission in our medical colleges but they will have to appear in the national exam," she said.
She also hit out at some national TV channels, saying they had "demonised" Kashmiri youth by "portraying a negative picture" of the Valley.
Defending alliance with BJP, Mehbooba said, "BJP got a majority in Jammu and we got majority in Kashmir. If we had ignored the mandate and joined hands with NC, we might have drawn some praise but how would we have kept the people of Jammu with us by ignoring them.
"Or we would have had to repeat the situation of 1987 by disrespecting the mandate which created (separatist) people like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammad Yasin Malik and (Hizbul Mujahideen supremo) Syed Sallahuddin," she said.
On the frequent detention of separatists, she said while it is against her nature, it had become "necessary to ensure the safety" of people. Referring to the dialogue between separatists and the Centre in 2005, she said the separatists were asked to come up with a road map for resolution of the Kashmir issue but they have not done it so far.