The Bharatiya Janata Party will tone down its rhetoric on Article 370 and unveil a development-based vision for the voters of Jammu and Kashmir, where the five-phase long assembly elections are taking place …
Relegating Article 370 to the last pages of its manifesto may be a tough call for the party because the legislation has supporters in the Jammu region. The BJP’s strategy is to exploit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity. “There is tremendous goodwill among people in the valley. We promise a parivar-mukt (dynasty-free), brashtachar-mukt (corruption-free), bhyay-mukt (fear-free) and vikas-yukt (development-oriented) Government. Our focus will be employment generation and development,” Avinash Rai Khanna, BJP MP and the party’s leader in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, said.
Khanna said the BJP Government would rehabilitate refugees from Pakistan and provide them voting rights. “The State has a huge tourism potential and the BJP will develop the infrastructure to tap it,” he added. He said the BJP had units in all 10 districts of the valley and would contest all seats in assembly elections. “Even the People’s Democratic Party’s Mehbooba Mufti has admitted the fight in J&K is between the BJP and her party,” said Khanna. According to another BJP leader, if the party emerges the largest group in the assembly, it is better-placed to form the Government. “We will be in a better position to win over independents if there is a shortage. Also, in the Ladakh region whoever wins, Buddhists or Shias, they would support a BJP Government,” he said.
Relief work after recent floods in the State and other services undertaken by Sewa Bharati, a Sangh Parivar organisation, have helped spread goodwill in the valley. “We rescued a large number people and livestock during the recent floods. About 300 volunteers in the valley worked hard to bring relief to stranded people,” said Fayaz Ahmed Mir, in charge of the Kashmir unit of Sewa Bharati. Sewa Bharati also organised 114 medical camps that benefited over 30,000 patients. The Minister for Science and Technology, Jitender Singh, a frontrunner for the Chief Minister’s post, has been supervising relief operations on Modi’s directive.
According to BJP leaders, the party has launched a multi-pronged strategy to consolidate Hindu votes in Jammu, win over Muslims through social service in the Valley and ensure support of Kashmiri Pandits. It is also reaching out to Buddhists in Ladakh and building bridges with other ethnic and religious groups like the Shias of Kargil, Bakerwals, Shins, Baltis and Sikhs.