Srinagar: The National Conference (NC) condemned the Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons to party president and Member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah on Monday, describing the move as witch-hunt and vengeance.
In a joint statement, several NC leaders from the Kashmir valley, the Jammu region and the Union Territory of Ladakh condemned the "undue witch-hunt" and intimidation of Abdullah, saying the "motive" behind the summons is to deter him from representing the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
They said the incumbent ruling dispensation in New Delhi is employing the government machinery and malevolent tactics to subdue Abdullah's effort in forging unity among different mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir.
"This government is doing everything it can to silence the combined voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which Dr Sahib (Abdullah) has been able to forge. The tactics are being employed across the board in the country to stifle the voices of dissent by using all spiteful measures, the party will not duck due to such tactics," the statement said.
The leaders condemned the treatment meted out to Abdullah, an octogenarian, the seniormost politician of Jammu and Kashmir and the Member of Parliament from Srinagar.
"Such tactics will only make us more resolute towards achieving our goal peacefully and constitutionally. The measure also reveals the jitters the present ruling dispensation is going through in the wake of the growing consensus among all mainstream political parties on the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah," they said.
NC general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar, provincial presidents Nasir Aslam Wani (Kashmir) and Devender Singh Rana (Jammu) and other senior leaders of the party, including those from Ladakah, were signatories to the statement.
Earlier, an NC spokesperson said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is employing government agencies to target Abdullah, after failing to fight him politically.
"The BJP, after failing to politically fight party president Farooq Abdullah, has resorted to employing its agencies for the task," he said in a statement here.
The ED questioned Abdullah, a former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, on Monday in connection with a money-laundering probe in a case related to the alleged embezzlement of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association funds, officials said.
They said the NC president's statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as in the past.
The NC spokesperson said the ED summons to Abdullah is clearly the result of the unity the party president has been able to forge among mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir in the shape of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.
"This is the price one faces when opposed to BJP's ideology and divisive politics. Recent history is a 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 Abdullah is a case in point," the statement said.
The NC said the timing of the summons is very clear as the previous summons was issued just before August 5 last year, when the BJP-led Centre abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, and this summons comes within days of the formation of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, of which Abdullah has taken a lead.
"Abdullah continues to maintain his innocence and will cooperate with the authorities in what is nothing but a witch-hunt," the statement added.
Meanwhile, taking to Twitter, Abdullah's son and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah described the ED summons as political vendetta.
"The party will be responding to this ED summons shortly. This is nothing less than political vendetta coming days after the formation of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. To set the record straight no raids are being conducted at Dr Sahib's residence," he wrote on the microblogging website.
People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said the ED summons displays the extent of the Government of India's nervousness about mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir fighting as one unit.
"ED's sudden summon to Farooq sahab displays the extent of GOIs nervousness about mainstream parties in J&K fighting as one unit. Also reeks of political vendetta & wont in the least blunt our collective resolve to fight for our rights," she said in a tweet.
People's Conference leader Sajad Lone said the summons reeks of vendetta and will have an opposite impact to what the BJP wants to achieve.
"What a sorry state of affairs. Dr Farooq sahib summoned by ED. Reeks of vendetta. Contrary to what they want to coercively achieve this will certainly have the opposite impact," he said in a tweet.