by Khalid Bashir Gura
SRINAGAR: As the first round of seven-phase elections in 403 member assembly in Uttar Pradesh is over, political parties continue pulling out Kashmir to woo voters. Even though politics and elections in Kashmir remain in deep freeze, far away, the word Kashmir is helping politics to grow.
With political parties battling the BJP juggernaut as it had won 312 of the 403 seats in the 2017 elections, BJP in order to bog down its formidable opposition is brandishing the narrative it has set in Kashmir after reading down Article 370. However, besides the claims of development and the new Kashmir narrative, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is being used to induce fear to influence voters’ choices. The non-BJP parties have condemned negative references to Kashmir as they see it as an attempt to polarize people.
“It will not take much time for Uttar Pradesh to become Kashmir, West Bengal or Kerala, if Uttar Pradesh voters commit a lapse,” incumbent Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is reported to have said while taking a jibe at two states ruled by non-BJP parties. He also urged his voters to be careful. “If you err, water will be poured over the hard work of the last five years. And this time, UP will not take much time to become Kashmir, Bengal or Kerala,” he said in a video message.
“They were dreaming of making a Kashmir here through Kairana, to these elements we have said – Kashmir is now turning into heaven and western Uttar Pradesh is achieving new heights in development,” Yogi Adityanth said last month as top BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah while launching a door-door campaign in districts which went to polls on Thursday.
The party also draw the Kashmir analogy of “Hindu exodus” as Shah last month was in Kairana in Shamli district which, the BJP had alleged, had seen an exodus of Hindus under the Samajwadi Party (SP) rule and had met some of the affected families.
Reacting to the statement, TMC RajyaSabha MP SantanuSen said that Adityanath is desperately trying to divide people, “which is an old game of the BJP when it finds the going tough”.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that Uttar Pradesh would be “so lucky” if it gets “the beauty of Kashmir, the culture of West Bengal and Kerala’s education.”
Reacting to Yogi Adityanath’s remark that he made in a six-minute video message on Twitter, Omar Abdullah said, “J&K has less poverty, better human development indices, less crime & generally better standards of living than U.P. What we lack is good governance over the last 3-4 years but that is a temporary phenomenon,” Abdullah tweeted.
Ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections in various states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a virtual rally also invoked Kashmir. Addressing a virtual rally for Uttrakhand Assembly Election 2022, Narendra Modi said “We want to move forward and they (Congress) want to pull us back… Congress has sown poison wherever they have talked about politics of appeasement. Look what they’ve done to Kashmir,” the Prime Minister added.