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There's always hope: Farooq Abdullah

Sep 18, 2010 05:49 PM IST India India
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Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN: Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. Has the National Conference been snubbed and boxed into an impossible position by the UPA and the all-party meeting – that’s the key issue we’re going to explore with the party president and the Union Cabinet Minister Farooq Abdullah. Dr Farooq Abdullah you publicly said that you weren’t disappointed with the outcome of the all-party meeting but the truth is that your son has said that the status quo is not an option and that’s all you’ve been given. So why are you putting up this face? Farooq Abdullah: It’s true that the status quo is there. After all the government has to think. It’s not a simple matter on both these issues they are matters of national importance …the importance of AFSPA that is of national importance. Then the question of autonomy, that’s of national importance. Therefore, yesterday’s meeting, many people supported it while some people didn’t have any opinion of it. Karan Thapar: So talk about the issues of national importance. Let’s take them up one by one. Your son the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that he either wants the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) lifted from specific districts of Jammu and Kashmir or be mended. You did neither and what’s worse you’ve got no promise of future. Farooq Abdullah: It’s not the question of future. Nothing is black and white in this world. There are certain things in politics, which take time. The delegation is going to go to take a look at the situation, the CM is going to brief them, others are going to talk to them and the outcome is going to be good. Why are you worried? Karan Thapar: In the meantime look at the message sent to the people of Kashmir by the all-party meeting. They clearly indicated that they would give greater concern to the sentiments of the Army rather than the feelings of the Kashmiri people. Isn’t it why even in districts where the army is present the AFSPA hasn’t been lifted? Farooq Abdullah: That’s what you think. Mrs Gandhi was absolutely clear that we’ll have to talk to our people. And they are our people and we have to look at their sentiments. So don’t worry about it. Karan Thapar: But the problem is that it’s rhetoric. Concrete action in terms of AFSPA hasn’t been considered, no promise has been made and the message given is that the all-party meeting cares more about the sentiments of the armed forces rather than the feelings of the Kashmiri people. Farooq Abdullah: No, not at all. That’s not true. We faced a situation on our borders with Pakistan, we faced the situation with China all things have to be considered with very great care. We’ve also insurgency that takes place from time to time but these things will have to be taken into consideration where you just can’t play with the security of the nation. Karan Thapar: Dr Abdullah, why haven’t the AFSPA been lifted from districts where the army isn’t even present? Farooq Abdullah: For God’s sake, it doesn’t take one minute to say, hereby, I remove AFSA, please wait. Karan Thapar: You’re still hopeful? Farooq Abdullah: When it’s the life of a human being, there’s always hope. And Farooq Abdullah has never lost that hope. Karan Thapar: But those are the words of a desperate man. Farooq Abdullah: No. Am not desperate. I have never been desperate. I’m not one of those desperate people that you want to see. I am not a desperate man. Karan Thapar: All right, let’s come to the second issue you spoke about – political autonomy. Your son has made it clear that he needs a political package – what have you been given? An all-party delegation and a promise of dialogue predicated on the rest of Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah: Do you think the Government of India is going to come out and say, yes, this is what we are doing? If BJP said within the Constitution of India, but within the framework of the Constitution of India that’s what we are talking about so why can’t you wait? It is 60 years. Since ’53 we’ve been waiting for it. Karan Thapar: Dr Abdullah, in 2000 your party committed itself to autonomy, you define that as a rollback to the pre-1953 position then it’s the illusion of hope that you’re getting from the UPA government or anyone else. And yet the people of Kashmir are left in the lurch. Farooq Abdullah: Please, I’ve always had hope. And I’ll continue to have hope till life is with me. And I’m not one of those who lose hope. Karan Thapar: But what about the packages on the anvil? Farooq Abdullah: Doesn’t matter. Karan Thapar: Doesn’t matter? Farooq Abdullah: There are certain things that you cannot see and there are things, which will happen. Karan Thapar: You think there’s hope for the public? Farooq Abdullah: Everything will happen in its own time. In it’s own way and it will have to be explained. Karan Thapar: Explain this to me then why are legislators of your party the National Congress publicly saying that Omar Abdullah has been let down by Delhi? Farooq Abdullah: Well I don’t know who said this but I have no idea about it. Therefore I cannot really comment on that. Karan Thapar: Let me go one step further. Chowdhry Mohammad Ramzan has actually said that the party will not keep mum if its demands are not met and clearly suggested that might even withdraw from the UPA. Farooq Abdullah: When did he say this? Karan Thapar: He said this to Indian Express on September 15, 2010. Farooq Abdullah: Please. I was with him yesterday. I was with him this morning whe I flew back to Srinagar. I had a core meeting of our party where he was sitting. So this wasn’t said to me, nor in the core committee meeting. Karan Thapar: But he said it on television. Farooq Abdullah: See, I don’t know which television channel you’re talking about. TV says a lot of things. TV channels would say FA said that PM praised Omar Abdullah at the meeting. There was no such thing. I didn’t even speak there. And the PM never said anything of the kind. There were herds of these press people after the meeting got over and I told them the PM praised Omar’s work when he was visiting Kashmir in June. Work of the government was praised by the Planning Commission. What more do you want? Karan Thapar: You said something very important I want to clarify. The clarification I want is that the PM didn’t praise Omar Abdullah at the all-party meeting on Wednesday? Farooq Abdullah: There was no mention of Omar Abdullah at the meeting. So there was no cause of praise for him. Karan Thapar: So there was no praise by the PM of Omar Abdullah? Farooq Abdullah: There was no praise, no disgrace, nothing. Karan Thapar: In fact the problem is that even though there was no praise on Wednesday, on the 13th, just two days ago, the Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) in its official statement referred to ‘governance deficit’, which is critical of Omar Abdullah. Farooq Abdullah: (Laughs) There’s lots of ways how you can read it. It makes no difference. Karan Thapar: How do you read such things? Farooq Abdullah: These things don’t bother Faroukh Abdullah. You talk to Omar Abdullah, for it bothers him. As far as I am concerned, Omar Abdullah is doing an excellent job. In the times that we’re going through I don’t think anyone else could have done a better job. Karan Thapar: But tell me why doesn’t the PM or the CCS not agree? Farooq Abdullah: Ask them that. Why do you ask Farooq Abdullah? This is a question you should put to the PM and the members of the CCS. Karan Thapar: Why doesn’t it bother you when your son’s government is under attack? Farooq Abdullah: Please, I’m not bothered. I’m telling you I’m not bothered, because you read a different thing, while I see a different thing. There’s a difference. Karan Thapar: Can I put it like this? Whether we talk about a political package, whether we talk about the AFSPA, whether we talk about criticism of your son’s government, on all this you sound unconcerned. Aren’t you worried that your own son is caught in the middle? Farooq Abdullah: What do you want me to do? Jump into the well? Jump into the river? What do you think? Do you think Kashmir is in an easy position? Do you think Kashmir is easy to govern? It’s a difficult problem. Sixty-years-long problem and the young man is doing his as best as anyone can do to put the state right. Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. At this time how serious are the strains between the National Conference and the Congress? Farooq Abdullah: There are no strains at all, none whatsoever. Karan Thapar: Do you know that people are speculating a national reconciliation government being created by the PDP joining the National conference and the Congress? Does that worry you that such speculation is doing the rounds? Farooq Abdullah: There is a lot of speculation in every capital of the world. And the media is a great promoter of speculation. They run their channels on speculation. Karan Thapar: But is there any credibility to this? Farooq Abdullah: No there’s no credibility to this. Karan Thapar: Will the Congress-National Conference government survive? Farooq Abdullah: I’m sitting here as a minister of the Congress government. If it weren’t surviving I wouldn’t have been here. Karan Thapar: People say that you’re just poised to take over yourself. Farooq Abdullah: No, I’m not poised to take over myself at all and I had made that clear a long time ago. I’ve done my job as best as I could. Karan Thapar: You’ll not let yourself be pushed back? Farooq Abdullah: No, I’m not going. My son is good enough. He’s got far more energy than Farooq Abdullah. Karan Thapar: Are you giving me a catagoric statement to that effect? Let’s then come to the all-party meeting did achieve – the decision to send an all-party delegation to Srinagar. In the present circumstances, I ask you what can it achieve? Farooq Abdullah: Let them go first. Why are you putting the cart before the horse? Wait. Let them go, let them talk, let them see who they can talk to and find out. Karan Thapar: That’s the question, let them see who they can talk to, I want to ask you that. If over 90 days the state government sitting in Srinagar has not been able to talk to the separatists, leave aside the stone-throwing young men, who are the MPs from Delhi are going to talk to? Farooq Abdullah: What do separatists want? Are you ready to give Kashmir to Pakistan? Are you ready to have a referendum? Hold on. Are you ready to hold a referendum? Are you giving them azadi? We are part of this nation. You better drive it into your head and those people who think otherwise. Karan Thapar: But my question still remains… Farooq Abdullah: Your question will always remain. It’s not a new thing. Your question will remain till kingdom comes. Karan Thapar: But if the state government for 90 days has not been able to talk to the stone-throwing young men who is the all-party delegation going to talk to? They are outsiders. Farooq Abdullah: How does it matter? Have you not seen trouble before? Have not seen it in the 90s have not seen people then? What are you talking about? Is it a new thing? Karan Thapar: Let me then accept your presumption that the all-party delegation will be able to talk to people and after that will Delhi deliver… Farooq Abdullah: Yes, they’ll go and meet people and it’s going to be a good thing. Karan Thapar: Let me finish the question, the PM’s promise of unconditional talks – he hasn’t even gone as far as Mr Vajpayee went when Mr Vajpayee talked within the boundaries of insaniyat…so even if this delegation talks to people, will Delhi deliver? Farooq Abdullah: I’m sure something good will come out of it. Karan Thapar: How can you be so sure? Farooq Abdullah: Why are you worrying? Something good will come out of it. Karan Thapar: People say that the all-party delegation is nothing but an exercise to gain time or a waste of time. Farooq Abdullah: I don’t think so. I think that’s what people who are not interested in finding a solution will think. Every effort is being made and I think it’s one of those processes which is in the same line. Karan Thapar: You know Dr Abdullah, clearly in the face – do you want a revocation of the AFSPA – no. You wanted a political package – not granted, and you keep saying that the PM praised your son in June but the point of the CCS criticizing him two days ago can’t be denied. Farooq Abdullah: What do you want me to do? I am not worried about these things. You be worried. Karan Thapar: You’re saying so? Why are you being an ostrich? Farooq Abdullah: For 30-40 years we’ve been fighting over this thing. So what? We’ll keep on. There’s nothing to worry about it. Karan Thapar: In the next five minutes I am going to ask you about the predicament of the National Conference. Is yours a party that is between a rock and a hard place getting squeezed from both sides? Welcome back to an exclusive interview with the president of the National Conference and Union Cabinet Minister Farooq Abdullah. Karan Thapar: Dr Farooq Abdullah let’s come back to what became crystal clear in part one – the predicament of NC. You’re caught between the alienation of the people in the valley and the intransigence of the government and political parties in Delhi. You’re caught between a rock and a hard place… Farooq Abdullah: Please, now that you put it in such terms, we have no problems. There are people and we’ve gone through misery before and we’ll come out of it. I don’t think we’re worried that anything major is going to happen. Karan Thapar: But you’re in a no-win situation… Farooq Abdullah: Don’t worry, it will not be so. And winning or losing is not the case. It’s a long long fight. Karan Thapar: But at the moment the NC is losing the fight… Farooq Abdullah: No, that’s not the case. To your mind and to your camera, we may be losing but we aren’t losing. Karan Thapar: You’ve lost credibility and support in the Valley, you’ve gained nothing in Delhi. People ask why is the NC continuing in office? Farooq Abdullah: Because you’d like us to get out for that will be a great thing for television channels to show. But don’t worry that’s not what is going to happen. NC has been there since 1938 and it’s going to stay and by the grace of god, it will remain. Karan Thapar: You’re putting on the bravest possible front. But look at your son, he’s much more sensitive than you. Farooq Abdullah: My son is young… Karan Thapar: and sensitive… Farooq Abdullah: My son is going through the experience for the first time in his life. In a few years he’ll be like me ‘cause experiences make a man. Karan Thapar: But now he’s a chief minister in a no-win situation and what is being battered every single day is his credibility, how will he put up before this? Farooq Abdullah: These are temporary things. Things will waver, the 1980s, the 1970s, Mrs Gandhi – hadn’t people and the media written her off? Many political people wrote her off and said that Indira Gandhi’s over. Was she over? She came back in 1980. And the same thing holds true for me when I left in 1990. They said Farooq Abdullah is gone. Your media had written me off. Farooq Abdullah is still alive and strong as hell. Karan Thapar: You’re forgetting something very important. Both Indira Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah came back after losing credibility in power in Opposition. Farooq Abdullah: I haven’t lost credibility and my son wouldn’t lose credibility. Karan Thapar: Are you saying that Omar Abdullah is going to lose power and build it back in office? Farooq Abdullah: Not at all, he will not lose power. Omar Abdullah is going to drive that state to a better future, so be ready for it. Karan Thapar: Has he got the will to do it? Farooq Abdullah: He has the will and he has the courage and he has got the determination. That’s what a man needs. Karan Thapar: Has he got the support of the UPA? Farooq Abdullah: He has the support of every single Indian who thinks that what he’s doing is right. Karan Thapar: You’ve met the PM and you’ve met the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, have they committed themselves to supporting Omar Abdullah? Farooq Abdullah: What we discussed in the meeting with Mrs Gandhi and the PM, I don’t have to tell the media…I don’t have to answer any such question as far as my meeting with them is concerned. That is a meeting between me, Mrs Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Karan Thapar: But why can’t you tell me whether these two important people support Omar Abdullah or not? Farooq Abdullah: I will not say anything on that. Karan Thapar: Does it worry you that people may get the wrong message from your statement? Farooq Abdullah: It doesn’t matter. People will get any message they want to. Who’s stopping them? There are millions of people getting different messages…does it matter to Farooq Abdullah? It doesn’t. Farooq Abdullah knows his course and knows which way to go and that’s all that matters. Karan Thapar: You see the problem is that your son has articulated what he wants and that hasn’t happened. How long can the NC continue with its demands… Farooq Abdullah: We’ve been here since 1938 and we’re still here. And by god’s grace we are going to be here till the earth is here… Karan Thapar: But then you’re being used as an alliance partner as a front by the Congress… Farooq Abdullah: No, not at all. Both the Congress and the National Conference are together in this and we’ll both sail through. Karan Thapar: …or sink… Farooq Abdullah: No we aren’t. This boat is not going to sink. This boat is going to sail to shore. Karan Thapar: My last question: The amazing thing is actually the NC does have a trump in its hands but is failing to use it. Congress clearly doesn’t want a President’s rule, the Congress is disinterested in forming an alliance with the PDP. They need you as much as you need them. You’re their best friend and yet you aren’t leveraging this to get what you want. Have you missed to play right cards in your hands? Farooq Abdullah: One good thing is that I don’t play cards. As a doctor in England I would go and play those three cards during diwali and I never won… Karan Thapar: You’re avoiding my question. Have you misplayed the cards? Farooq Abdullah: No I haven’t misplayed anything. And our cards our good enough. Karan Thapar: So this coalition, this government in Srinagar will continue? Farooq Abdullah: Inshallah Inshallah (nodding). Karan Thapar: Is Omar up ahead? Farooq Abdullah: Inshallah. Karan Thapar: Is Farooq Abdullah not going to get pushed to take over? Farooq Abdullah: Why should I be pushed over? Am I a lollypop that you can push from this mouth to that? Not at all. I am Farooq Abdullah. Karan Thapar: And you’re staying in Delhi? Farooq Abdullah: I’ll stay anywhere. This is my country. Karan Thapar: But you’re not taking over as chief minister? Farooq Abdullah: Is the job of chief minister the only job that a person can do? I can give you power from sun, wind, microhydel, from biogas – is that not the future of India? Karan Thapar: So on that note when there’s a smile on your lips, and let’s hope you’re not fibbing and fobbing… Farooq Abdullah: (laughs) No, I am not lying. God bless you, thank you.