Srinagar: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi skirting any statement on Article 370, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said BJP is shying away from committing on this contentious issue and is instead keeping its "feet in two boats" in Jammu and Kashmir which normally ends up "sinking".
The Chief Minister, who is the working President of National Conference, also dubbed BJP as an "opportunist" party with whom he feels there cannot be any relationship.
Omar, who heads the coalition government with Congress, made these remarks when asked to comment on BJP talking in different voices on Article 370 that grants special status to J and K and avoiding making a direct statement on the issue during the assembly polls.
"Of course, they are avoiding to be caught in this issue because it will be a problem for them. In Jammu, Article 370 becomes a national issue, up in the hills in Jammu, they are silent about it and in Kashmir, their candidates say 'if you touch Article 370, we will pick up the gun'....So they are contradicting themselves depending on the place in the state where they happen to be," he said in in an interview to PTI during the course of his hectic campaign for the Assembly elections.
"They don't want to commit themselves one way or the other. But, again, while trying to put their feet in two boats, you will end up sinking," the 44-year-old Omar said.
Modi, who was in Kishtawar of Jammu region yesterday, refrained from making any political statement on Article 370.
The state is going for the a five-phase poll beginning November 25 and it is widely expected that the results on December 23 will throw up a hung assembly. But Omar refused to predict anything saying, "I never make predictions. It's never been my habit. In school, I never predicted my exam results and I never predicted my election results."
However, in case of a hung assembly, the Chief Minister made it clear that he would not be having any ties with the BJP which had accused him of being corrupt.
"Look I don't want to speculate about what will happen after the elections. I think let's wait and see what the assembly looks like and then we will decide what has to be done.
"I know people are very curious to know what we will do with BJP. As far as I am concerned, the party which is calling for abrogation of Article 370, wants to do away with our Constitution and our flag and seems to think that I am a thief is an untouchable party. I am not the one who will be accused of corruption by a person no less than the Prime Minister and one month from now, I will go and join hands with them.
"I am not opportunist like BJP. In Maharashtra they called NCP as Nationalist Corruption Party and today they are governing the state with their support. That's not my politics. If I am corrupt now, then I will be corrupt three months from now. And if the BJP thinks of me like that, then I definitely will not be one to be forming any sort of relationship with them," Omar said.
On the allegations levelled by the Prime Minister and BJP President Amit Shah, Omar replied "You (BJP) have been in the government for the last six months at the Centre. Please tell us where (we have robbed the state). Amit Shah is famous for following people and tapping phones. Prove it (the allegation)."
In reply to another question, Omar was quick to list the 2010 summer agitation, which was sparked off by a fake encounter by Army in Machil of North Kashmir by gunning down three civilians and dubbing them as militants, as an incident which will haunt him for a long time.
In the hindsight, Omar says he should have handled allies perhaps a "little more forcefully" than he did.
"The 2010 agitation, the summer agitation will haunt me. I think I could have talked or marketed our achievements and successes better than we did. I had hoped that we would have concluded all three tiers of local body elections but these also fell victim to coalition politics. On the whole, we did a lot of good (work) but there are areas which in hindsight one would have liked to change."
However, when asked whether Congress, which entered into an alliance with the National Conference in 1987 and again in 2008, was an unreliable ally, Omar said, "look I have governed with them for six years. I don't want to talk too much about Congress. For better or for worse, neither of us chose this alliance.
"This alliance was a necessity that came about on account of electoral results in 2008. I am not one having governed with them for six years and suddenly find faults with Congress party. We governed and we governed and that's that."
To a question whether BJP, which is on ascendancy in the entire country and is trying to make inroads into Kashmir, may end up polarising resulting in heightened communal tension in Jammu region and the Valley, Omar said, "Let us see. In the past, I know, attempts have been made to polarise the voters. The 2008 Assembly elections took place in the shadow of highly polarising Amarnath land row agitation.
"This time we have not allowed any such designs to succeed. So I hope people will vote out of their free will and make the right choices. Whether the BJP tries to use polarising slogans in their campaign I guess depends on the areas where they are campaigning.
"But it will be highly counter-productive and very short-sighted to do something like that because it may give them momentary benefit in the elections but long term damage by polarising communities against each other here," he said.
So how realistic was BJP Mission 44+ to come to power in J and K where the strength of the Assembly is 87, he said, "Everybody is. You show me a political party which is not targeting 44+. We just don't call it mission 44+ but everyone is barring smaller parties like Panthers party and Peoples Conference.
"Out of the main four political parties, not a single political party is saying we are targeting less than 44 seats. So why is that the BJP is acting as if their Mission 44+ is something unique to their party. We are all targeting 44+."
Aked whether he thought that BJP was trying to make deep inroads into the state in a big way, he said, "They are welcome to do that. The majority of their inroads will be at the cost of Congress."
Omar misses his father and National Conference President
Farooq Abdullah. "We are the only party that does not have a star campaigner. Every other party has some star campaigner or the other. Sometimes the star campaigners come from outside the state, some from within the state.
"We are the only party that does not have a star campaigner because, unfortunately, our star campaigner's health does not allow him to campaign. I was hoping that he will talk to his people over phone but that did not happen because his health did not permit. May be someday, let's see," he said.
Farooq is undergoing medical treatment in London for a kidney ailment.
Asked whether there was a confusion among the separatist ranks and files during this year's election, the Chief Minister said, "I think there is less confusion today as there was yesterday. Syed Ali Shah Geelani withdrawing his strike call for November 25 in Ganderbal and Bandipora districts and telling people to decide for themselves whether they should vote or not, I think that is a good development.
"I think in this case, boycotting elections will be detrimental to the interests of the people of the state, particularly the people of Kashmir. I hope the other separatist leaders, if they are not hand-in-glove with BJP, will also withdraw any boycott call they are proposing to give, particularly people like the Mirwaiz (Umer Farooq) and Yasin Malik. This is now their test to see where they stand."
So is being an incumbent Chief Minister an advantage or a disadvantage. "Well, it works both ways. Obviously, we have done some work and we hope to sell that politically to the people. Other than that, not really. It is not really a disadvantage.