A noticeable social media backlash of the National Conference (N.C.) may have pushed the party to abstain from the delimitation exercise in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The three N.C. Members of Parliament, party president Faooq Abdullah and his colleagues Justice Hasnain Masoodi and Akbar Lone, were on May 28 nominated by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla as associated members of the Delimitation Commission. Two Bharatiya Janata Party MPs, Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, have also been nominated as associate members of the panel.
As the N.C. kept quiet over this announcement, resentment grew against the party, which has been the subject of conjectural talking, after its top leaders were selectively released from detention. Political observers and voices in the social media concurred that the N.C’s participation in the delimitation exercise would virtually mean stamping the August 5 unilateral action of the Union government, when it ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and downgraded the erstwhile State into a Union Territory.
The N.C’s silence on the revocation of Article 370, ever since the Abdullahs were released in March, has also been spurring animated discussions. The party had only recently also courted controversy when two of its senior leaders, Tanveer Sadiq, political secretary of Omar Abdullah, and chief spokesperson Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, gave contradictory statements to the media. While Sadiq in an article in a local English daily batted for “reconciliation”, Mehdi took on him sharply. “Revisit domicile law? Lift curbs on Internet? ‘ Let ’ political process be run? Is that all what you are looking for in this reconciliation? If I am not reading wrong, you are basically asking for 4G (Internet) and their 'permission' to let us start the political process? & then all is well?” Mehdi tweeted on May 24, the same day Sadiq’s article was carried in Greater Kashmir .
Sadiq’s public exhortation for “reconciliation” and the N.C’s alternation between acquiescent and combative modes are in line with Frontline’s report that the party is in a mood to let bygones be bygones and gear up for the next elections whenever they are held. ( "Chastened Rivals" , April 24, 2020.)
A party spokesperson on Thursday told this reporter over the phone from Srinagar that the leadership was concerned at the social media outrage against the party. “The two leaders’ [Sadiq and Mehdi] contradictory messaging was worrisome. The media also played it out. A mood against the N.C. is emerging and that forced Omar Abdullah to issue a statement, downplaying the spat between the two leaders,” the spokesperson said.
The party’s sudden announcement to abstain from the Delimitation Commission seems to be guided by the negative reception the news generated. On May 29, as the social media was flooded with critical messages against the N.C., the party clarified its position. “This Delimitation Commission is a product of the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, which N.C. is challenging both in and outside the Supreme Court. Participating in the Commission will be tantamount to accepting the events of August 5, 2019, which the N.C. is unwilling to do,” a spokesperson of the party said in Srinagar. He announced that the three N.C. MPs would not participate in the delimitation exercise.
According to the J&K Reorganisation Act, seven more Assembly segments will be added to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, the current strength of which is 85.