The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Indian National Congress confirmed on Tuesday that its representatives will attend the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said Ravinder Sharma, spokesperson of the Congress' Jammu and Kashmir unit.
Sharma said that Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president GA Mir and party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad will attend the meet from Congress.
Why is it relevant?
The Congress' decision comes after the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) confirmed Tuesday that its members too will attend the all-party meeting in New Delhi on Thursday.
The PAGD a six-party alliance of mainstream parties that came into existence after the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. Abdullah said all those invited will attend the meeting. Its members include Congres, National Conference, PDP, CPM, JK Awami National Conference, JK People's Movement.
The other members of the PAGD, who have been invited to the meeting by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla include National Conference's Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah; PDP's Mehbooba Mufti, CPM's MY Tarigami.
The Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference's Sajjad Gani Lone, who left the alliance in January. too has been invited for the meeting. The other invitees are Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party's Altaf Bukhari; National Panthers Party's Professor Bheem Singh; and BJP's Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Home Secretary Bhalla would also attend the meeting.
Former Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister and Congress leader Tara Chand, who too was invited to the meet, is reportedly unlikely to attend the meet due to ill health. He is currently admitted to a hospital in Delhi.
What's on the agenda?
According to officials, the prime minister's scheduled meeting with leaders from Jammu and Kashmir is part of the Centre's initiatives to bolster political processes, including holding Assembly elections, in the Union Territory.
The word on the grapevine, according to ANI, is that the Centre is open to discuss all issues on the table, including statehood.
Several news agencies have said that there is no set agenda for the meeting, and instead expect a freewheeling discussion on 24 June.
On Tuesday, PAGD chairperson Farooq Abdullah said that no agenda has been pitched from their side (the Centre).
"We can talk about any issue there," he added.
However, considering this is the first such exercise since the Centre announced the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and its bifurcation into Union territories on 5 August, 2019, the issues of J&K's statehood and its special status will likely be on the table.
Over the last few days, several Jammu and Kashmir leaders have commented on topics they may talk about at the meeting with Modi.
PAGD vice-chairperson and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said that she would press for the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir along with statehood.
"We will talk on what has been snatched away from us, that it was a mistake and it was an illegal and unconstitutional act, without restoring which, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and peace in the whole region cannot be established," Mehbooba said.
Talking to reporters, Tarigami, who is also the PAGD's spokesperson, hinted at seeking the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir during the meeting with the prime minister.
"We will not ask for the stars, but will seek what has been ours and should be ours only. As we have no information on the agenda of the meeting called by the prime minister, we will reiterate the stand of the PAGD there, before the highest leadership," he said.
The CPI(M) leader said the meeting with the prime minister was an opportunity and assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh that the leaders were going to Delhi to advocate on their behalf.
"We will advocate in that court on the behalf of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. We will appeal to the prime minister of India about safeguarding the guarantees under the Constitution, which we have been given before, and to reconsider them," he said, referring to the erstwhile state's special status.
Tarigami said there should be no misconception among the people that the alliance leaders were going to sign on to the agenda set by the Centre.
"No, we are not. We are going to see what proposal the Prime Minister of India has. If it is in our interest, the interest of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, then we will say yes and if otherwise, there is going to be a big no," he said.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir People's Conferences' Sajjad Lone said that his party will convey "the pain and suffering" of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to Modi. His party has called on the region's parties to play a constructive role in the development of Jammu and Kashmir and sought to end the political logjam in the Valley.
"There is a dire need for scripting a new social contract between Delhi and the people of J&K to address the aspirations of the people here," he had told Outlook India on Monday.
The JKNPP's Singh had told PTI on Monday that his party would represent both Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in a true sense to seek the return of peace, equity and equality for the local residents and will ask what needs to be done to save Jammu and Kashmir from further death and destruction.
"We will press for the holding of early Assembly elections," he said, adding the party rejects the delimitation commission which is based on the 2011 Census and will take up the issue during the meeting.
"My approach is very simple: where is the document of accession which was signed by my Maharaja? You have revoked Article 370 but where is the reference on the instrument of accession which has not been approved?" PTI had quoted Singh, who is a Supreme Court lawyer, as saying.
The instrument of accession was signed on 26 October, 1947, between Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Indian government to accede Jammu and Kashmir to Independent India.
The JKNPP leaders said the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been given special rights by royal decree and it was made clear that these cannot be changed or converted under Chapter Three of the Constitution.
"Delhi has done so many blunders with regard to Jammu and Kashmir and has not learned any lessons to date. I feel surprised," he said.
With inputs from agencies