September 25, 2002



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The Election Interview/ Mufti Mohammad Sayeed
JK Election

'National Conference is a bottleneck for peace'

Election 2002 Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed says Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and his family have plundered the state.

In an interview to Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh in Jammu, the former Indian home minister said people had decided to vote against the ruling National Conference, and this would help in the restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

What is your assessment of the poll scene in Jammu and Kashmir?

Since the first phase of the elections in the state was transparent, voters have gained confidence in the electoral process. Wherever there were problems with the electronic voting machines they were immediately replaced. There were complaints against some officers but the Election Commission removed them immediately.

I must compliment the Election Commission of India. They have managed to get a lot of goodwill from the people for holding free and fair polls. Due to this there would be a larger turnout in the third and fourth phases of elections. What is more important is there would be no rigging.

Are you saying Atal Bihari Vajpayee has kept his promise of free and fair polls in Jammu and Kashmir?

Yes. The prime minister has kept his promise. For the first time I have seen exuberance and confidence amongst voters, even in the Ganderbal constituency of the Abdullah family.

I am sure the polls in subsequent phases would also be free and fair and there will be no rigging.

You have said the National Conference will be voted out of power. What is the basis for this view?

There is so much resentment against the National Conference government. The anti-incumbency factor is there.

Wherever they found a good candidate people have voted in large numbers. They are participating in the elections because they want to change this government. They want to change the National Conference rule which is a bottleneck for the restoration of peace in the state.

The National Conference has a vested interest in continuing militancy in the state. They want to create a fear psychosis amongst the people so that they do not come out and vote. The National Conference benefits from the boycott.

Why do you think people will not vote for Dr Farooq Abdullah?

Dr Abdullah's family has plundered the state exchequer.

Do you agree with the BJP's assessment that Jammu and Kashmir is heading for a hung assembly?

I do not see that happening. I expect a clear mandate from the people for one party or the other. The perception of the people about the ruling party is the same everywhere. People tend to vote against the ruling party.

Dr Abdullah alleges that because you released five militants for the release of your daughter when you were home minister of India in 1989, that became a turning point of militancy in the state?

This allegation has been repeated time and again. He has always been mentioning it whenever he gets an opportunity. Before that he had released 150 hardcore militants. These militants became the backbone of militancy in the state in later years.

The release of five militants would not make a difference. You would recall that in the 1989 parliamentary election not more than 5 per cent of the electorate voted. So the alienation was already there. Nobody asks him what has he done in the last six years excepting making lots of money.

Would you be the chief ministerial candidate in case your party wins the poll?

The decision on this would be taken by the elected MLAs. If they elect me as their leader then I would abide by their choice.

Is your daughter Mehbooba Mufti also a candidate?

No, she is not a candidate for the top post.

Do you have an electoral understanding with the Congress?

No, I have no understanding with the Congress. My party does not want to dilute its regional character.

If you need help from the Congress to form the government would you take it?

I do not want to assess the situation right now. It is a game of numbers. We would cross the bridge when we come to it.

Dr Abdullah has alleged that your party has been organising attacks on his minister Sakina Itoo.

I categorically deny the allegation. Why should we do it when we are winning? Only the losing party makes such allegations. Three candidates of my party were also attacked. It is the chief minister's duty to provide protection to the contesting candidates and not make allegations against the others.

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