Jammu, December 20:
Expelled BJP leader and former MLA Gagan Bhagat Thursday joined the National Conference here in the presence of party president Farooq Abdullah, who promised regional autonomy to Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir regions if his party comes to power in the state.
“I want to make a promise that God willing if we form the next government, we will bring a resolution to grant autonomy to the three regions (within 30 days),” Abdullah said as he welcomed Bhagat into the NC fold at the party headquarters here.
In his brief address, Bhagat, a doctor by profession, thanked the NC and said he would serve the humanity and work for the uplift of the border residents, the poor and the downtrodden sections of the society.
He said he would work with dedication to strengthen the party at the gross-roots level.
Abdullah said the regional autonomy would work as a balm to the wounds of the people as every area would get its due representation. “Regional autonomy is not there and it is going to be our first priority. Regional autonomy document is prepared and needs some improvements,” he said.
Abdullah said Bhagat would strengthen communal harmony, brotherhood and the unity of the three regions of the state.
Bhagat, a former MLA from the R S Pura constituency of Jammu district, was expelled by the BJP on December 10, the day the Supreme Court dismissed his petition challenging the dissolution of the state assembly by Governor Satya Pal Malik, for”anti-party activities and indiscipline”.
Two days later, Bhagat came out in open against the state party leadership, accusing it of being anti-Dalit, following which the BJP issued a defamation notice to him for levelling “unfounded and abusive” allegations against state party president and state general secretary.
“I am a Dalit and faced victimization from the party which is 100 per cent anti-Dalit… I was always given the position where my caste fits,” Bhagat had told reporters.
“People have given their mandate but got presidents rule,” he said, referring to BJP pulling out of the coalition government which led to the fall of the PDP-led government in the state in June and subsequent imposition of governor’s rule.
Abdullah said, “Many more leaders are in touch with the National Conference and they will join the party in coming days.”
Asked about the remarks of the state Governor that a section of the country’s upper class who do not do charity are like “rotten potatoes”, he quipped, “I don’t know which is rotten potato and good potato.”
At a function here, Malik had said “the big segment of society in this country, those who are wealthy — in Kashmir, politicians and bureaucrats are all wealthy — do not have any sensitivity towards society. They do not do charity of even a single rupee. But there are a few like this in the upper classes. Please do not take it badly, I consider them ‘rotten potatoes’, not human beings.”
On the issue of regional autonomy, Abdullah said the roadmap in this regard was drawn between 1996 and 2002 during his rule and its larger objective would be politico-economic empowerment of all the regions of the state.
“Jammu and Kashmir is a unique state that needs special dispensation in terms of autonomy to different regions to satiate urges and aspiration of the people,” the NC chief said.
He said a major ground work has been done in this regard with avowed objective of empowering the people at grassroots level and enabling them to take decisions as per their regional priorities.
“Such a mechanism under overall superintendence of the state government will further strengthen the regional unity, which is imperative for singular entity of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Appreciating joining of Bhagat into the party, Abdullah exuded confidence that the people, especially those in political arena, would work towards maintaining the singular entity of Jammu and Kashmir which is under severe threat from “polarizing agents”.
“Peace and amity has to be strengthened at every level and this can be ensured only by strong National Conference, which is a mass movement.” he said.