Srinagar, Aug 10 (PTI): Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi today to discuss the legal challenges to Article 35A of the Constitution, official sources said.
The chief minister, who is scheduled to leave for Delhi in the afternoon, is also likely to meet leaders like JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav on the issue of Article 35A that gives special status to the state and has been challenged in the Supreme Court, they said. Mehbooba is keen to build consensus against scrapping the Constitutional provision, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges, they said.
In a surprise development, Mehbooba had called on opposition National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah this week to seek the support of his party on the issue. Abdullah had told her that she should meet the prime minister, all the important central ministers and also the BJP leadership to convince the Sangh Parivar against striking down the constitutional provision.
The chief minister has also held meetings with leaders of other opposition parties in the state, including Jammu and Kashmir Congress president G A Mir and DPN chief Ghulam Hassan Mir. Sources in Mehbooba’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said striking down Article 35A will be “a catastrophe for all mainstream political parties in Kashmir”.
It will be nothing short of a “tsunami” for mainstream politicians as protection of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Constitution is the “cornerstone of their politics”, they said. On the latest developments, NC spokesman Junai Mattu tweeted: “On #35A, bizarre of @MehboobaMufti to seek a consensus against BJP WHILE in an alliance with the BJP. She wants to have AND eat the cake”.
“That is the crux of her dilemma – run with the hare & hunt with the hounds. She wants to govern with the BJP & oppose their politics with us,” the party’s working president, Omar Abdullah, said in a tweet. The controversy erupted in 2014 after an NGO ‘We the Citizens’ filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking Article 35A be struck down.
The Jammu and Kashmir government, under the guise of Articles 35A and 370, which grant special autonomous status to the state, has been discriminating against non-residents, who are debarred from buying properties, getting government jobs or voting in local elections, the PIL said. Article 35A was added to the Constitution by a presidential order in 1954, it said.
While the state government contested the petition, saying the president had the power to incorporate a new provision in the Constitution by way of an order, the Centre, recently, expressed its reservations.