by Pallavi Sareen

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JAMMU: Municipal elections seem to have become a prestige battle for Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which is fighting both anti-incumbency and inter-party rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir.

Ravinder Raina

From stopping short of calling leaders and workers of Congress agents of militant groups to question the army operation inside Golden Temple in 1984, BJP is using all the tricks in the book to polarize votes in its favour. Chants of ‘Jai shree Ram’, and ‘Mandir wahin banayenge’ are part of the campaign.

And if anyone thinks that the statements being made by BJP leaders are not deliberate and aimed at polarizing the votes, they must stay informed that the core committee of State BJP meets every morning at 11 pm at the Corporate Party Headquarters in posh Trikuta Nagar locality to devise the strategy for the whole day.

From spokespersons to the in-charges of various cells and units to the selected few members of the younger brigade of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), BJP State President Ravinder Raina and General Secretary Ramesh Koul address all. Insiders maintain that the two share their roadmap for the day with them and the entire cadre is told to strictly adhere to the guidelines issued. Senior BJP leaders agree in private that the statements are deliberate and aimed at pushing Congress to the corner.

But the language being used by the BJP leaders for these local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir has rung alarm bells in the social as well as political circles.

BJP’s State President Ravinder Raina has been alleging that Congress leaders are in nexus with Pakistani militants.

“Vote for the Congress means a vote for Lashkar, vote for terrorism,” Raina said. “Vote for the Congress means a vote for traitors.”

Raina addressed a rally and recalled a remark by Ghulam Nabi Azad which was supported by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). In the remark made by Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in June last, he had alleged that Indian army kills more civilians than terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.

The campaigns for local bodies election in the state have turned from the usual grassroots level developmental speech strategy to anti-nationalist slurs and emotional vote-bank politics. The issues of the common man have taken a backstage as a slug-fest emerges between BJP and Congress.

The polls are conducted to elect candidates who would work for the people on the grass-roots level. The issues of common man like ‘sadak’, ‘bijli’, ‘paani’ are addressed so the developmental process may reach the next level. But barring the independent candidates, campaigning in Jammu & Kashmir has taken a turn towards national issues and using emotive stance to allure the electorate in its favour.

Instead of taking up development issues and promising to work for the common men, BJP is raising up issues of national politics to pin down the nearest rival. State BJP leadership is depending upon the Prime Minister’s charisma instead of showcasing its initiatives till date to the electorate.  In every rally addressed by BJP State President Ravinder Raina, he raises a question about alliances of Congress with terrorist groups.

On Thursday, while addressing an election rally in Jammu East constituency, Raina also raised the issue of settlement of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Jammu. “Congress is a party of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis as most of them have infiltrated into the state of Jammu and Kashmir during their rule in the Centre,” Raina said.

Meanwhile, Congress is also taking an emotive stance in accusing BJP of ignoring the plight of people of Jammu in favour of Kashmir while it was in power. “BJP- PDP remained in power for more than 40 months and now out of power they are passing the buck on each other,” Congress Minister Raman Bhalla, who represented the Gandhi Nagar constituency earlier, said in a speech. “BJP used emotive slogans to exploit the sentiments of the people. Their tuck with PDP was most opportunistic. The party took U-turns on the core issues without caring for the aspirations of the people of Jammu, who voted them immensely to power”.

“I think this should not be taken seriously. Everyone knows how big a leader Ravinder Raina is and how acceptable he is,” former Congress minister Sham Lal Sharma said in a statement. “It is a different matter that in Jammu and Kashmir, there is a bankruptcy of leadership in BJP and such a person is made State President. Congress party does not require the nationalist certificate from Ravinder Raina.”

Brig Anil Gupta defended Ravinder Raina’s statement. He said, “Jammu and Kashmir is a sensitive state and Congress aligning with Pakistan is very very serious. The electorate of the state should understand this.”

With polarization in the country on the national level, it seems that the same strategy is being applied for political gains in the Urban Local body elections in Jammu & Kashmir as well. Since People’s Democratic Party and National Conference have boycotted the Municipal elections; the mainstream parties are using blame-game to win electorate’s favour.


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