BJP Invokes Modi, Military As Congress Rediscovers Indira

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by Pallavi Sareen

JAMMU: Apart from raking up issues of communal, regional, religious and military issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is central to the election campaign of BJP in Jammu and Kashmir for the ongoing Municipal Elections.

A Congress poster showing the former PM Indira Gandhi in whose name the party is seeking votes in municipal elections in Jammu. KL Image: Pallavi Sareen

Posters, pamphlets, handbills, leaflets of BJP have pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah alongside the picture of the local candidate standing for the elections. Even the vehicles fitted with loudspeakers have speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi running in the foreground with an appeal for votes in the background.

Reliance on Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart, BJP candidates in almost all wards of Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) prefer talking about national and international issues. Nowhere are the candidates heard talking about local issues which they have to address after getting elected. The local issues have taken a backseat and the core is Prime Minister’s fan following.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being used by BJP for local body elections, Congress has brought to life ex-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The party is trying to woo the voters by talking more about Indira Congress of the past and less or little about the present Congress which is being led by her grandson Rahul Gandhi. Despite being National President of the party and also the Congress Prime Ministerial face, Rahul Gandhi is seen very little in the campaign of the Congress candidates for the local body elections across Jammu region.

Congress is seemingly more comfortable with Indira Gandhi and the local leadership besides relying on the personal image of the candidate. One thing is for sure that the state congress has tried its best to avoid being seen as contesting elections on the strength of fan following of its national president Rahul Gandhi. The candidates agree though without being named that Rahul Gandhi doesn’t sell much and hence needs to be avoided in the ongoing local body elections.

They say that the party leadership virtually forced them to include the image of Rahul Gandhi in the posters, pamphlets, handbills and leaflets. “There was no need to include the picture of either Indira Gee or Rahul Ji since it is a municipal election and not the assembly elections but we are forced to include these pictures only because BJP was using the image of Prime Minister,” one Congressman pleading anonymity said. “This is unlikely to make an impact. We are relying more on the image of the candidate than on our Prime Ministerial candidate Rahul Gandhi or his grandmother late Indira Gandhi.”

Civic polls which are mainly regarding the issues of the common man were traditionally contested and won on basis of the civil problems and the promises of working for the people on the grassroots level. But this season, the candidates have given it a new turn in Jammu.

Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned for BJP candidates during the Assembly and Parliamentary elections, he remains the star-campaigner for BJP even in civic polls. Deprived of local leadership, his photographs play the role of winning the trust of the electorate. The pictures of local MLAs, MPs and actual candidates can hardly be seen over the overwhelming Modi campaign.

“There is nothing wrong with such campaigning. This is the tradition in our party that when we make posters, Narendra Modi’s and Amit Shah’s photo has to be there,” Brig Anil Gupta, the spokesperson of BJP, said. “Space is also left for State Party President. We are proud of Narendra Modi who is a great Prime Minister and so there is nothing wrong in showcasing that.”

A BJP poster showing the PM Modi in whose name the party is seeking votes in municipal elections. KL Image: Pallavi Sareen

“BJP does not have anything of its own to market except for Narendra Modi and his praises,” Congress spokesman Ravinder Sharma said. “They are not talking about the development of Jammu and Kashmir. They want to save themselves. These are civic elections; developmental elections. Let them tell us what they have done in four years in the state.”

“BJP state President talks about things here and there. They divert votes on the bases of religion and militancy,” Sharma said.

Congress is also seen using pictures of Indira Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad in its promotional flexes, but the picture of Rahul Gandhi is limited to a small symbol on the poster. “We have put little symbols but we are not doing politics on their names. Primarily this is an election about developmental issues and though we have also put up small pictures of Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Ghulam Ahmad Mir, we are focusing upon our candidates more,” Sharma added.

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