Barely a week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to launch the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election campaign in Jammu and Kashmir, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Monday sought to downplay the Sangh Parivar’s long-standing demand repealing Article 370 of the Constitution.
Speaking after unveiling a book in New Delhi, senior RSS leader Inderesh Kumar was muted about the Bharatiya Janata Party demanding abrogation of Article 370 during its election campaign for the 87-member J&K assembly. The constitutional provision accords special status to the state. Kumar, who has spent several years as Sangh pracharak in J&K, said: “The 2014 election is an opportunity to regain the lost Kashmir and the lost Kashmiriyat.”
He said the people of the state were no longer interested in the cause of the separatists, but wanted education for their children and economic development. “The challenge is education, development and to ensure return of the 4,00,000 (Kashmiri pandits) displaced from their homes,” he said.
Kumar underscored that the state has a separate flag and laws distinct from those followed in the rest of the country, including the right to buy land. However, he stopped short of stating that the BJP would be demanding the repeal of Article 370. “I have said what I had to about the current situation. It is for you to understand,” Kumar said later.
The PM is scheduled to start his campaigning in J&K with a public rally in Kishtwar. Modi is likely to hold eight public rallies in the state, including a couple in the Kashmir Valley. Party sources confirmed the dates of only two of the PM’s public rallies -- Kishtwar on November 22 and Udhampur on November 28. The two districts are located in the Jammu region. The dates of Modi’s rallies in the Valley are unlikely to be announced until the morning of that day because of security considerations.
Until now, the party’s election campaign in the J&K has focused on the promise of ‘achhe din’ or better days, economic development and the ‘mess’ wrought by Kashmir’s two leading political clans -- the Abdullahs and the Muftis. BJP candidates such as Hina Bhat from Amira Kadal constituency and the party’s most prominent face in the Valley have publicly spoken against repeal of Article 370. BJP leaders believe the party could do well in at least three seats in the Valley, including Habba Kadal and Amira Kadal, and replicate its success of Lok Sabha elections in both Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state.
While BJP election campaign will continue to downplay repeal of Article 370, its manifesto for the state is likely to repeat the stand it took in its Lok Sabha manifesto. It stated, “BJP reiterates its stand on Article 370, and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.”
J&K, along with Jharkhand, will have assembly elections in five phases starting November 25. The counting of votes will take place on December 23. The BJP is hopeful of emerging a significant political player in J&K.