Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has made a strong statement, saying it is now time to move beyond Article-370 and 35-A

Azad talked about the present political situation in Jammu Kashmir in an exclusive interview with News18 Senior Correspondent, Peer Mudasir Qadri. Here are excerpts from the interview.

You are the only politician of Jammu and Kashmir who has defended Article 370 in Parliament of India. Presently, what is your take on Article 370 and 35-A?

I have raised my voice and talked continuously for 2 years in Parliament regarding Article 370. But now is the time to move on and restoring Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and early Assembly elections will be my top priority.

Article 370 was already hollow but the protection of lands and jobs was its important factor I will continue my efforts to ensure the reservation of jobs and land for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and would press the government to soon introduce a bill in this regard.

Do you feel that Delimitation Report is ready as of now but it is still kept hidden from the public domain. It has been said that BJP is responsible for delaying Assembly polls in J&K?

Why the report of the delimitation commission has not come to light yet. However, the Assembly elections must be held in Jammu and Kashmir before the delimitation so that it does not directly benefit any particular individual or party.

All the claims of the BJP before the repeal of Section 370 had proved to be baseless. BJP was talking about the development and jobs, while Jammu and Kashmir have the highest unemployment rate now.

BJP was making tall claims after the abrogation of Article 370, that the situation on the ground has improved a lot. But as of now, militancy is on the rise and the situation is not getting back on track.

The country’s security forces and Jammu and Kashmir police are performing their duties but the manner in which terrorism was eradicated in Punjab did not happen in Kashmir. While the militancy battle in Kashmir has been going on for more than 30 years, this battle is looking difficult. However, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is getting worse due to continuous Governor Raj. In order to prevent loss of life in such cases, the central government should formulate a solid strategy with the State government after the elections.

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti is terming the recent encounters as fake. What is your take?

These are the leaders whom we tried to stop from partnering with the BJP but then they were seeing the things crystal clear and now the things for them are not good. Now, is the time for all political parties to work together to restore the confidence of the people. Instead of criticising each other, all political leaders should try to win the trust of the common people.

Things are not good inside Jammu Kashmir Congress. There is an internal rift in the Congress and there are rumours of Azad becoming the Chief Minister after floating his own political party.

There is an internal rift in every party and if there is such a thing in the J&K Congress, it will go away with time. The post of Chief Minister should not be the subject of any political party yet as at present, only early elections in Jammu and Kashmir and restoration of statehood should be the endeavour of every party. It was up to the people to decide which party they would trust and which party would be the Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister and NC leader Omar Abdullah has criticised Ghulam Nabi Azad for his statement on Article-370. Omar said that Article-370 was more important for Congress rather than any other party because Article-370 was the provision of Congress leaders like Jawahar Lal Nehru.