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From China to cricket: How Farooq is hedging his bets?

Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: Last week, he almost sought help from China to restore the “special status” of Jammu and Kashmir. From the same China which tried to capture territory in Ladakh, part of the border state of which he had been the most colorful Chief Minister multiple times since 1982 when Pakistan began to change its demography by terror-tactics.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah, 82, began this week on Monday by cooling his heels in the Enforcement Directorate’s office in connection with a major cricket scam involving financial irregularities to the tune of over Rs.43 crore in the 2002-11 period.

Clearly, he was hedging his bets last week on how to respond to the ED’s summons. The ED had served asked him to appear and he wanted to use it to protect himself, and go ballistic against “India”.

A ‘transparent’ leader, he did not disappoint anybody on Monday.

As was only to be expected, his political ‘credit card’, also known as the National Conference (NC), denounced the ED move as “political vendetta”, as does any petty politician in such a situation.

His pet media, nursed over the decades, reported NC’s reaction in great detail:

“The letter from the ED came after the Gupkar declaration. It is a clear political vendetta after the ‘People’s Alliance’ was formed in Kashmir,” said an NC spokesperson. “We knew it was coming.”

The ruling BJP at the Centre was using its agencies to fight the new political formation because it “couldn’t fight it politically”.

“This is the price one faces when opposed to the BJP’s ideology and divisive politics. Recent history is witness to how the BJP has been employing coercive and intimidating measures through various departments to target opposition leaders across the country. The recent ED summons to Farooq Abdullah is a case in point.”

The NC said the timing was “very clear”. Dr. Abdullah had maintained his innocence and would cooperate in what is “nothing but a witch-hunt”.

The former J&K CM was questioned by the ED in connection with alleged irregularities in the J&K Cricket Association. The ED, probing money-laundering allegations against it, had earlier questioned Dr. Abdullah in July 2019, that is before the Centre annulled Article 370, and split the terrorist-infested border state into two Union Territories.

The ED had recorded his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). It had also filed a money laundering case after taking cognizance of a CBI’s FIR and charge-sheet.

The CBI had, in 2018, filed a charge-sheet against Dr. Abdullah, an  NC MP, and three others, for alleged misappropriation of Rs. 43.69 crore between 2002 and 2011. The money was given by the Broad of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to the J&KCA for promoting the sport in the state.

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His rival and former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) tweeted: “ED’s sudden summon to Farooq Sahab displays the extent of GOI’s nervousness about mainstream parties in J&K fighting as one unit. Also, reeks of political vendetta & won’t in the least blunt our collective resolve to fight for our rights.”

Dr. Abdullah, his son, and former CM Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were among the many politicians detained for months to prevent them from stoking a fire in the troubled, terrorist-infested state.

On Thursday last week, these former CMs, together with many of their ilk, formed the “People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration” to fight for the restoration of the Article 370 and “resolution of Kashmir”.

This was based on the “Gupkar Declaration” signed on by them on August 4, 2019, after an all-party meeting at the Gupkar Road home of Dr. Abdullah in Srinagar.

Regional parties and the Congress had resolved to protect J&K’s special constitutional status and fight against any move to dilute it.

A day later, the Centre called their bluff, moved swiftly, and enforced the fait accompli.