Mehbooba Mufti meets Rajnath Singh amid debate over J&K special status


NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh amid reports that she had come to the national capital to drum up support for preventing attempts to remove special status to the state under the Constitution.

The meeting lasted for nearly 45 minutes, officials said without elaborating about the topics that were discussed.

The meeting comes in the backdrop of growing pressure on Mehbooba, who is caught in a catch-22 situation over the ongoing matter in the Supreme Court on revoking Article 35-A of the Constitution that grants special status to the state.

The chief minister is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi tomorrow afternoon which is to be followed by a courtsey call on to the newly appointed President Ram Nath Kovind, they said.

It was not immediately clear whether Mehbooba would be meeting leaders of other political parties including that from the Congress, Janata Dal(U) and Left parties.

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.

Mehbooba had met 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 important central ministers and also the BJP leadership to convince the Sangh Parivar against striking down the constitutional provision.

Sources in Mehbooba’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said striking down Article 35A will be “a catastrophe for all mainstream political parties in the Kashmir Valley”.

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.

“That is the crux of her dilemma – run with the hare & hunt with the hounds. She wants to govern with the BJP and oppose their politics with us,” the party’s working president, Omar Abdullah tweeted.

In a related development, PDP’s alliance partner, the BJP, said in Jammu that time had come to bid a farewell to Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution as they created a “separatist psyche”.

Both these articles, instead of being beneficial to the people of the state, have done great damage and hampered progress and development, said state BJP spokesperson Virender Gupta.

“The time has come when the people of Jammu and Kashmir should say goodbye to Article 370 and ask the Government of India to revoke Article 35 A,” he said.