Tabling the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha earlier this week, Shah requested the House on Friday to take up a resolution on the extension of the President’s Rule and the bill together to save time.
Making a case for the extension, he said restoring democracy and eliminating terrorism “from the root” in the state are the top priorities of the government. Voter turnout has increased in the state, and the law and order situation is under control, he claimed, adding that people of Jammu and Ladakh feel like they are a part of the state for the first time.
Following Lok Sabha’s final nod to the extension, Shah told reporters the government will hold Assembly polls when the Election Commission decides.
History of the President’s Rule
Since the state Assembly stands dissolved following the PDP-BJP divorce last year, Shah announced it is necessary that President’s Rule is extended for another six months with effect from July 3, 2019, until the Election Commission decides to hold fresh elections later this year.
No party/alliance has a majority in the state assembly, and the EC has not yet ordered polls in the state.
Governor’s Rule was imposed in June 2018, after the BJP rolled back its support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The state Assembly was kept in suspended animation until November. The Governor then dissolved the 87-member Assembly; citing horse trading and the lack of stability, he denied the new PDP-led coalition a chance to form the government.
On December 20, 2018, President’s Rule was imposed.
Why extending it is not a great idea
Regional RSP complained that Governor Satya Pal Malik’s decision to dissolve the state Assembly was “arbitrary” and left no scope to form an alternative government, despite arch-rivals PDP, Congress, and National Conference staking claim to form it.
RSP leader NK Premachandran also pointed out that the ruling government had been advocating simultaneous state Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the country but didnít allow Assembly polls to be held along with general elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier, Kashmiris were told Lok Sabha and Assembly polls could not be held simultaneously owing to security considerations. But that can’t be a reason to keep extending the President’s Rule; people in the state have a right to be governed by their own elected representatives.
However, there are various socio-cultural reasons why elections cannot be held immediately. Kashmir, in the last decade, has consciously avoided conducting elections during Ramzan (May 7 to June 4) or Amarnath Yatra (June 30 to August 15). The nomadic Bakarwal community travels to higher reaches during this time and returns only in October.
Amit Shah’s defence
Responding to Opposition, Shah reminded that this is not the first time the state is under President’s Rule; earlier, Governor’s Rule was imposed seven times and the President’s Rule twice.
“To those who are levelling these accusations at us, I would like to say that so far there have been 132 instances when Article 356 of the Constitution (that imposes President’s Rule) was used in the country,” the newly appointed home minister said.
Accusing the Congress of imposing President’s Rule to remove elected governments in an array of states for its political interests, Shah hit back saying, “Don’t teach us democracy, you imposed President’s Rule 93 times.”
Many in the Opposition tried to oppose the resolution on grounds that the Narendra Modi government is stifling democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, but speaker Om Birla blocked the bid saying correct procedure had not been followed.
During the debate on the resolution, Shah referred to the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections saying that in a state where bloodshed and casualties mark all elections, polls this time took place for 40,000 posts, and there were no death reports.
Outlining other issues resolved under the recent Governor’s and President’s Rules, including immigration to West Pakistan and PoK, cattle deaths, and building bunkers, Shah assured that the Centre values the lives of every single person living on the border.
The home minister urged members to rise above party lines and pass the resolution. This is the first proposal Shah has moved in the Lok Sabha after being appointed as the home minister in the second tenure of the Modi government.
Shah drew sharp criticism on Friday for implying that one-third of Kashmir does not belong to India today because of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius
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