As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to hold Jammu and Kashmir all party meeting on June 24, heads of political outfits have started confirming that they have started receiving formal invite for the same. Reports say that the all party meeting which will be headed by PM Modi is part of Centre's initiatives to bolster political processes, including holding assembly elections, in the union territory.
National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah has confirmed that his party has received a formal invite for the meeting while People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti has also said that she had received a call regarding PM Modi's meeting and is expecting a formal invite.
Sources in the NC said that the senior Abdullah will be consulting party leaders about participation in the meeting.
Mehbooba told Friday that she had received a call from the Centre for a meeting on June 24. "I am yet to take a decision. I will discuss with my party members and take a final call," she said. Both Abdullah and Mehbooba had served as chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Invitations were sent out on Saturday to 14 political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, including four former chief ministers, for participation in a high-level meeting.
Upcoming meeting going to be PM's first interaction with J-K political parties after Article 370 abrogation
This will be the prime minister's first interaction with all the political parties of Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019 when the Centre abrogated special the state's status and bifurcated it into union territories. The erstwhile state has been under the Centre's rule since November 2018.
Elections in J-K likely in December or March next year
Officials said the Centre is keen on holding assembly elections in the union territory as early as possible, likely to be held either in December or March next year after the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai completes its task of redrawing constituencies in the next few months. The Commission was granted one year's extension in March this year.
The meeting is likely to be attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders. All the leaders have been asked to come along with a COVID-19 negative certificate, the officials said.
Among those invited are four former chief ministers -- Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.
Asked about the prospect of talks with the Centre, CPI(M) leader and spokesperson of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) MY Tarigami said there has been no word from New Delhi, but added that if it happens, it would be welcomed.
"We have never closed our doors for meaningful engagement with the Centre. Though I have no information about any dialogue, if it happens, it will be welcomed," Tarigami told PTI from Srinagar.
The PAGD is an alliance of some parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including the NC and the PDP, that was formed in the aftermath of the Centre's August 2019 decisions.
JKAP president Bukhari said, "I welcome, if and when, the talks take place. This vindicates our position of March 2020 when we had made it clear that dialogue is the only mechanism to restore democracy and statehood for Jammu and Kashmir."
"Better late than never as the solution to all our problems lies with New Delhi and nowhere else," he added.
BJP, Congress J-K units to be part of discussions
The Jammu and Kashmir units of the BJP and the Congress are also likely to be part of these discussions, which are being seen as part of efforts to strengthen normal political processes in the union territory.
The officials said the delimitation commission under the leadership of Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai, which was set up immediately after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in Parliament, is likely to expedite its work and submit its report. The commission was set up in February 2020 and has been given an extension of one year in March this year.
Barring Bukhari, other leaders have served a spell of detention following the August 2019 decision of the Centre to abrogate special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the erstwhile state into union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
In the District development Council election last year, the PAGD surged way ahead of the BJP and its allies, including the JKAP, by bagging 110 seats out of 280 with the National Conference emerging stronger with 67 seats within the alliance. The BJP was the single largest party with 75 seats.
The political mainstream of the union territory, especially those having a strong base in Kashmir Valley, have been critical of successive administrations of the union territory for neglecting the demands of the people and raising questions on the development slogan raised post August 2019.