An apologetic Amit Shah tries to regain BJP's lost base in Jammu and Ladakh
Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) national president Amit Shah chose the occasion of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJP's initial avatar) ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's 'martyrdom day' to start the process of reclaiming the lost support of his party in the Jammu and Ladakh regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP recently withdrew support to the Mehbooba Mufti led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with which it had allied after the 2014 Assembly polls. The state has been placed under the President's rule.
Ironically, Shah sounded apologetic on the occasion which has been used by the BJP to propagate its ideology among the masses with vigor for decades across the country. In the past it was an occasion for the party to propagate how the BJP was a party with a difference.
But this time, Shah confined his much awaited address in Jammu on Saturday evening to convey to the people of the Jammu and Ladakh regions which had elected BJP candidates to the state Assembly that the reason why the withdrew support to the Mufti government was that the Jammu and Ladakh were not getting their due share in the development and were being ignored. He also tried to use the occasion to paint the Congress leadership black accusing it of plundering the state in connivance with thee two families, the Abdullahs and the Muftis.
He continued with the campaign of depicting the recent statements of Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz as anti-India and asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to apologise for them.
“Look at the statement of Ghulam Nabi Azad. I cannot even repeat it. Lashkar (militant organization Lashkar-e-Toiba) supports it. I want to ask the Congress president Rahul Gandhi what kind of frequency matching is there between the Congress and Lashkar.. I want to tell Saifuddin Soz that even if you take 100 rebirths BJP will never allow separation of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Shah played up the recent killings of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and security personnel Aurangzeb besides the discrimination against the Jammu and Ladakh regions.
“Under the PDP government, a newspaper editor was murdered. Children took up stone-pelting. Attacks on army and security forces increased. We could not be part of such a government. The Narendra Modi-led central government gave several financial packages amounting to Rs 80,000 crore to the state. Modi came here over a dozen times. But Jammu and Ladakh were discriminated against. If development is not balanced and Jammu does not progress, we decided that we cannot be part of this government,” he said.
Shah tried to convey that only BJP is a nationalist and a patriotic party. “BJP is a patriotic party. We don’t care about power, we care about the development of the state,” he said.
He targeted those questioning a change of gears in anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir following the imposition of President's rule. “Media is creating its own narrative, linking anti-terror operations to the Governor’s rule. I appeal to the media to change the narrative. Ours is a narrative of development,” he claimed while asking the people to let the security forces do their job while they focus on development. He claimed that maximum number of terrorists have been killed under the Modi government.
In his speech Shah elaborated at length on the discrimination faced by the Jammu and Ladakh regions. He said,“The Centre approved AIIMS (all India Institute of Medical Sciences) for both Jammu and Kashmir but the PDP government did not allocate land for AIIMS in Jammu. It is our right to demand our share.” Similarly he accused the PDP government of not utilizing Rs 400 crore allocated for building bunkers along the International Border. He attacked the Mehbooba government for not initiating the process of delimitation that would have proved beneficial for the Jammu region. He said that no steps were taken towards granting Scheduled Tribe status to Gujjars and Bakarwals.
The BJP is trying to regain its support base in Jammu and Ladakh regions. Its popularity in these regions had dipped considerably during the time it shared power with the PDP in the state. In 2014 the party had won 25 seats in the assembly polls and all of them were in Jammu region that sends 37 legislators to the house of 87 members. While 87 members are elected directly, two are nominated to the house. Sources say the party would be wiped out in the Jammu region if polls are held today. The party in any case has no support in the Valley.
This scenario has made the BJP leadership jittery as both the Lok Sabha and assembly polls are not very far away.
The party joining hands with the PDP, a party that it opposed tooth and nail, had left its supporters disillusioned.
“It could not get the Article 370 removed and it could not deliver on its promises on recruitment and jobs to the people who elected its candidates in the Jammu region as it has confessed. There was no let up in the militancy. It stands alienated. It is back to the politics of polarisation,” said local Congress leader Ravinder Sharma.
The party has also been drawing flak on continuing shelling from across the International Border in the Jammu region. The shelling has seen a spurt in the recent days and has led to further fleeing of people from their villages. The people have been demanding more bunkers. There are villages where people just go in the day time to take the cattle out for grazing or to attend to their fields only to return to safer locations for the night. Sources say that many local BJP leaders have been facing hostility from the local population in such areas. They talk with sarcasm about the BJP's pre-poll talk of killing ten enemies for every one casualty of Indian security personnel.