Eye on 2019, Amit Shah's First Rally Post PDP Split Focuses on Jammu and Ladakh
Addressing a rally in Jammu, Shah launched a scathing attack, saying that the Narendra Modi government had released Rs 80,000 crore for the development of the state, but the money never reached Jammu or Ladakh.
Jammu: In a speech just days after splitting from the PDP, BJP chief Amit Shah on Saturday laid bare the party’s plans for the next year’s 2019 Lok Sabha election by highlighting how the Hindu-dominated Jammu had fallen behind in the race for development under the Mehbooba Mufti government.
Addressing a rally to mark the "historic martyrdom anniversary" of Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Shah launched a scathing attack at Mufti, saying that the Narendra Modi government had released Rs 80,000 crore for the development of the state, but the money never reached Jammu or Ladakh.
He claimed that the discrimination against Jammu was the main reason for pulling out of its four-year old coalition with PDP. “The development was never balanced. We decided it is better to not be a part of such a government and sit in the opposition benches. How can we let a government run that does not let Jammu and Ladakh develop?” Shah said.
The BJP had on Tuesday withdrawn from the government in a surprise move, which analysts say was pushed by its traditional vote base growing increasingly unhappy with the Ramzan ceasefire. The PDP's opposition amendments to Article 370, which grants a special status to Kashmir, and to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was tying the BJP's hands in the view of its supporters.
Shah's speech seemed finely tuned towards the local population of Jammu that has been quite angry at not seeing any major development scheme in the region despite voting giving BJP its highest number of seats - 25 - in the 2014 assembly elections.
It also signaled that the BJP does not have much interest in the Valley, where it secured a measly 2.2 per cent of the votes in 2014 and won no seats. It had not won any seats in Buddhist-dominated Ladakh in the Assembly polls either. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won from Ladakh, Jammu and Udhampur.
Shah claimed that despite over a dozen visits made by Prime Minister Modi to the state, BJP's coalition partner in the state - the PDP - did not ensure a parity in development of Jammu and Ladakh with Kashmir.
"The common minimum program that we had stitched together with the PDP after getting a fractured mandate in J&K, mentioned that the development of all three regions of the state should be on part. We waited for four years but they did nothing," Shah said.
"Hum dekhte gaye aur vikas ka santulan bigadta gaya [we kept watching as the development model got skewed]," Shah said.
Doubling down on the narrative that Mufti government had deliberately not done any work in Jammu and Ladakh, he gave the examples of two projects – ring roads and AIIMS - that were to be built in Srinagar and Jammu simultaneously, but he said that work never started in Jammu.
He said that the Centre had released Rs 2,100 crore to build a ring road in Jammu and Srinagar each, but while work started in Srinagar, the road in Jammu is in limbo. Similarly, he said that the Mufti government did not even lay the foundation stones for AIIMS in Jammu.
The controversy over shifting of the proposed AIIMS institute from Jammu to Srinagar was one of the first major protests that BJP had faced in the region back in 2015.
“National Conference and PDP dynasties have ruled J&K for three generations, but what have they achieved? We provided financial help for Kashmiri Pandits who were driven out of their homes 40 years ago, but PDP gave them nothing,” he said.
The BJP president also gave a glowing tribute to Mookerjee, who he said played a pivotal role in integrating Kashmir with India. "The BJP workers have a special relationship with Jammu & Kashmir due to the contribution of Syama Prasad Mookerjee," he said.
He slammed Rahul Gandhi over the remarks made by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saiffudin Soz over Kashmir, and said "Rahul should apologize for the statements made by his party leaders." He also invoked the plight of West Pakistan refugees and displaced Kashmiri Pandits in his 20-minute long speech.
Shah, who is on a day-long trip to the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, was earlier accorded a rousing reception with party's youth wing taking out a bike rally from the airport to the state guest house. He was accompanied by state party president Ravinder Raina and other senior leaders.
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