While J&K faces crisis, BJP puts spotlight on Article 370
The People's Democratic Party is being asked why it is in an alliance with a party that is not addressing more pertinent concerns in the state.
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BJP leaders are back in Jammu and Kashmir, precisely in Jammu. They come, they deliver sermons followed by press conferences and they leave. However, they no longer talk about development and good governance. Last week, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said the abrogation of Article 370 continued to be part of the party's core agenda and that it would work in that direction whenever it garners the required numbers in Parliament.
Two days after Patra's speech, another BJP leader and member of Parliament Meenakshi Lekhi, while she was in Jammu, called for a debate on Article 370 in the state Assembly saying that her party has not diluted its stand on the demand of its abrogation.
Now a minister in the prime minister's office, Jitendra Singh, too says the BJP stands for abrogation of Article 370 in line with Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee's views. Singh says he had grown up in politics understanding the ideology of Mookerjee, who favoured "Ek nishan, ek vidhan, ek pradhan (one flag, one Constitution, one leader)" "So, how can we get away from that truth, how can we get away from our legacy and how can we get away from our birth," Singh said.
Soon after Narendra Modi took over as prime minister, Singh was the first minister of the BJP who called for the abrogation.
However, BJP's rhetoric about Article 370 is contrary to the position it took in the "Agenda for Alliance or the Common Minimum Programme" with PDP. In the programme, both the parties agreed to put debate and discussion over Article 370, which guarantees Jammu and Kashmir special status in the Indian constitution, into deep freeze, at least for the next six years. "While recognising the different positions and appreciating the perceptions BJP and PDP have on the constitutional status of J&K, considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K, including the special status in the Constitution of India," reads the agenda.
While describing the purpose of the alliance as "governance alliance", it says the objective is to form a coalition government that will be empowered to catalyse reconciliation and confidence building within and across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, thereby ensuring peace in the state. "This will, in turn, create an enabling environment for all round economic development of the state and prosperity of the people.
The Agenda for Alliance reads: The raison d'etre of this alliance is to provide a stable and a representative government in J&K, which:
a. Respects the mandate given by the people
b. Strengthens the institutions and widens the ambit of democracy through inclusive politics
c. Provides smart governance
d. Brings about self-sustaining and balanced development across all three regions of the state
e. Creates conditions to facilitate resolution of all issues of J&K.
So far, the PDP-BJP government has not done anything on the ground. It has courted one controversy after the other since day one and governance has taken a back seat. Anger is brewing, especially in Kashmir, over the Centre's lack of response to rehabilitate the flood-affected even after a year. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah was scathing and sarcastic enough when he recently wrote in a news portal about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Kashmir during floods: "The PM flew over Srinagar and then held a meeting at the airport to review the situation. He promised all possible help and then went the extra mile by promising the government in Muzaffarabad (across the Line of Control) all assistance in rebuilding their part of Kashmir that had been hit by floods as well. All I can say is that with hindsight I'm glad they didn't accept the offer because they'd still be waiting."
Business leaders in the Valley say Kashmir will be on the brink of an economic disaster if the Centre fails to provide financial assistance to revive the economy, which is in a shambles after last year's devastating floods. Instead of taking up governance issues seriously, the BJP-PDP government in the state has had ministers issuing orders that have the potential to push the state to the brink.
Those who had thought the PDP-BJP alliance would usher in an era of development in the state, at least provide good roads, instead see Jammu and Kashmir in a financial crisis - with an empty treasury and huge liabilities staring everyone in the face.
The Centre has not stepped in to address the financial issues. Instead, Union ministers and BJP leaders come and deliver lectures on Article 370. This indicates the growing chasm between the two parties, which are ideologically poles apart and had come together, promising development to the state.
Many are apprehensive in the Valley that once the BJP's popularity graph plummets at the national level, the party would grow more concerned about Kashmir and the scrapping of Article 370. Since the day PDP entered into an alliance with the BJP, it has not talked about self rule. But the BJP is not only talking but talking loudly, and constantly, about Article 370.
Given the BJP's stress on the abrogation, the PDP is now asked why it is in an alliance with a party that goes back to Article 370 instead of addressing issues of financial crises of the state. The PDP has no answers.