Kashmir may not have any election anytime soon. But BJP made the abrogation of Article 370 and Kashmir such a powerful issue during election campaign in Haryana and Maharashtra that even Congress fell in line
In Haryana and Maharashtra, the two states going to polls on October 21, non-BJP parties are frustrated as BJP elevated Article 370 abrogation as the main poll plank. BJP’s top leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are not talking anything other than this. To price hike, low growth rate and lack of jobs, there is only one response – Article 370.
In Ballabgarh (Harayana), Prime Minister Modi attributed soldier killings to Congress’s love for Article 370. “The brave jawan of Haryana who was protecting innocent citizens of J&K, who fell to bullets of terrorists…,” he said. “When his body came back wrapped in the tricolour, ask those mothers how many sons of the soil lost lives because of your love for Article 370?”
“These people (read Congress) are raising questions over this decision, going abroad and asking for help. I challenge them to go to the people of Haryana and tell them that if you win, you will bring 370 back… Go from village to village in Haryana and explain its benefit to people, to mothers who lost their sons in Kashmir, ask them how many sons have been killed due to your affection for (Article) 370.”
“I challenge the Opposition, if you have the courage, then take a clear stand on 370. If you have the courage, declare in your election manifesto that you will bring back Article 370, 35A, which the Modi government scrapped… Stop shedding crocodile tears…,” Modi roared in Jalgaon. “Do any of them have the courage to bring back 370? Will the country let them bring it back? And even if they try, will they survive? Will their politics survive? Will the country accept it?”
In Mumbai, he pushed them further: “You look at the statements made by Congress, NCP off late,” he said, “They seem to be speaking on lines of the neighbouring country.”
In yet another public meeting, Modi took a jibe on them: “A Congress leader had said, this decision will destroy the country, it’s been 3 months, has the country been destroyed? Another Congress leader said that we’ve lost Kashmir by abrogating Article 370, have we lost Kashmir? If you want to go to Kashmir let me know, I’ll make arrangements.”
In Kolhapur, Home Minister Amit Shah gave credit to the “man with 56-inch chest” and accused Congress of “imposing Article 370” and continuing with the two prime ministers, two symbols and two constitutions. “Our people lost their lives due to terrorism” Shah said, “but there was no intention of any party to remove Article 370. After people of the country and Maharashtra voted him for the second term, Modiji did something for which the entire country was waiting for 70 years.”
“They used to decapitate our soldiers, but the then prime minister Mouni baba Manmohan Singh never used to utter a single word,” Shah said. “But after the Uri and Pulwama attacks, Modiji showed the courage of killing terrorists in their den through surgical strike and air strikes.”
Terming it “final nail in the coffin of terrorism”, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Pune said: “Kashmir, which is called paradise on the Earth, turned into hell under Article 370. Terrorists used to kill innocent civilians and Indian soldiers.” In UP, he however, says by abrogating Article 370, Modi fulfilled the Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dream.
In Karnal, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh BJP government had planned removing Article 370 in its previous term but did not proceed due to “some reasons” and “an incident”. BJP sources said the incident was Pulwama attack.
At the same time, Modi says Kashmir will remain like this sometime more. “I assure you that it won’t take more than 4 months to normalise the abnormal situation that has persisted there for 40 years.”
Seemingly Congress is facing music. “I am hiding the shortcomings of my party by invoking Article 370,” Mumbai’s Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill was quoted saying. “Why is the Chief Minister of Maharashtra not talking about rising prices of petrol, diesel, and onion?”
“How does Article 370 in Kashmir make any difference to voters in Nanded or in Maharashtra,” asks Ashok Chavan, Congress’s former Chief Minister. “The real issues are agrarian crisis, debt relief that has not reached a very large percentage of farmers, economic crisis.”
Even Raj Thakrey agrees: “There are many other issues related to the state that have to be raised during the election campaign. They should speak on issues of farmers, industrial slowdown, scams in banks.”
But who listens when Kashmir comes up?
Finally Congress encouraged Dr Manmohan Singh to open his lips and calmly fall in line. In Mumbai he told reporters that Congress also believed the Article 370 was “temporary” and his party also voted in favour of its dilution. The Congress, he said, was only “opposed to the high-handed manner” in which it was done. The exact words of Dr Singhare: “Congress party… jab yeh Bill Parliament kesaamneaayatoh Article 370 kiuparjobaatcheethui, Congress party ne iskehaq main vote diya, iskekhilaf vote nahindiya. Congress party kayehvicharhaiki Article 370 is a temporary measure. But if it has to be changed… the change has to be brought with the goodwill of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The manner in which it was implemented, the high-handedness with which it was implemented is what we opposed. We were not opposed to the enactment of Article 370’s abrogation.”
Elections apart, the Congress was facing a crisis within on this issue. Some of its leaders like Milind Deora and Jyotiraditya Scindia supported the abrogation unlike Rahul Gandhi and Gulam Nabi Azad.