He thus set his party and his prospective government on a path that could lead it to the forefront of the movement across the country towards regional autonomy, rather than on a confrontation with the Centre over enhanced autonomy for only his strife-torn state.
Abdullah met Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda to discuss the closer cooperation. He also met leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha AB Vajpayee and planned to call on other former prime ministers. He has been in close touch with UF leaders like CPI(M) general secretary HKS Surjeet, who played a role to push the Gowda government to hold assembly elections early. Abdullah did not field an NC candidate against CPI(M) state secretary Yusuf Tarigami in Kulgam.
Abdullah, who rivalled NT Rama Rao and Jyoti Basu in 1983 as a leading light of the shortlived alliance of non-Congress regional leaders, evidently sees a historic opportunity in this resounding victory to place his party, which was arguably the first regional party in the country, in the vanguard of the nationwide thrust towards regionalism.
In a series of interviews throughout yesterday, Abdullah barely spoke of autonomy for J&K of the sort that prevailed before 1953, though he had made this one of the hinges of his appeal to the people of the Kashmir valley, large sections of whom have been engaged in secessionist militancy since 1989. With a two-thirds majority, including a substantial proportion of the seats from Jammu and Ladakh, the NC could change the J&K constitution,which is legally valid under the Indian Constitution, to give the state a great deal of autonomy without even referring to the Centre. However that does not seems to be his thrust at all.
He indicated how low the autonomy issue was in his priorities by announcing that he would set up a committee to go into the issue and submit its report within a year. He would not even say whether he would prefer autonomy of the sort Indira Gandhi had granted in 1977 or would insist on the pre-1953 model. He wanted meaningful autonomy, he asserted.
The committee will find a way out and explore what is in the interest of the nation and the state.
There are three regions with distinct cultures and heritage. I also stand for autonomy for the three regions within the J and K constitution, he said.
Abdullah, looking sober rather than exuberant in victory, listed employment, reconstruction of infrastructure and revival of the state's tourism industry near the top of his priorities. Asked how he felt after his landslide victory, he said this frightens me. The expectations are high and this imposes a lot more responsibility on me. There is far more pressure on me as people have given a judgement against violence and the gun culture.
Asked about the role of security forces including army after installation of his government, Abdullah said I think security forces should not be reduced and rather beefed up. Army needs to be very vigilant along the Line of Actual Control to prevent any infiltration from across the border.
Besides providing a good executive to serve the people, I will fight militancy at all levels and start the reconstruction process in the state to restore normalcy, Abdullah told an agency.
Asked about his attitude towards the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a multi-party pro-Pakistan outfit which had given a call to boycott the assembly elections, Abdullah said Our doors are open. APHC is welcome to the table and hold talks with us.
To a question if there would be any impact following the pro-Pakistan Taliban take over of Kabul, he said why should there be any problem? We are not part of Kabul.. We are part of India.
Abdullah lashed out at Pakistan for sponsoring and abetting militancy in the state and said this had inflicted collossal loss on the Kashmiri people.
This had neither benefitted Pakistan, he said, declaring that he wanted improvement of relations between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since Partition.
Asked how he proposed to deal with surrendered militants, against whom the National Conference had levelled serious criminal charges, Abdullah said that his government would disarm them.
We are not going to allow them to indulge in looting and rape. The state government will review their cases and those not charged with serious offences may be granted amnesty and others handed over to courts, he said, adding that his government would also consider providing jobs in central paramilitary forces and J and K police so that they became disciplined.
Total Seats 87
Counting Held 81
Results Declared 81
Party Seats won
AICC (T) 1
Counting for six constituencies of Doda will be held today