Modi’s call for fresh debate on Article 370 made political parties react sharply in order to keep the pot boiling before elections.  But apparently Modi succeeded in conveying his message to Jammuites who are already against the idea of special status to J&K, Shah Abbas argues.

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BJP Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister  Narendra Modi addressing his “Lalkaar” , recently,  Pic: Asif Naik
BJP Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addressing his “Lalkaar” , recently, 
Pic: Asif Naik

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJPs) prime ministerial candidate and the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, created a fresh discourse about the Article 370 of the constitution of India resulting in a strong resentment from the unionist camp from the valley. But fact of the matter is he succeeded in addressing the Jammu constituency for his party particularly the districts of Jammu, Kuthua, Udhampur and Samba.

Even the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah admits that Modi’s “Lalkaar” has succeeded in activating the BJP cadres. “Modi’s rally had created ripples in Jammu and the Modi effect was visible in other states as well,” Omar said while taking part in a television program adding, “Modi’s advent had rejuvenated the saffron party’s cadre.”

The above mentioned four districts are of non-Muslim majority and mostly against the very existence of the Article 370. As for as rest of the state is concerned, people as well as the politicians are very sensitive vis-à-vis the special ‘status of the state’ though knowing the fact that frequent legislative interventions over the years have left nothing much in the Article 370 now.

“Fact of the matter is that Article 370 has been eroded to an extent where it’s being or not being into existence hardly makes any difference, now the political parties at national and state level are pleading as if article 370 is only about the rights of the women” opines Er Rashid, an independent lawmaker and MLA Langate.

The Jammu based parties oppose the Article 370 in one voice. Even the staunch anti-BJP parties of Jammu like, National Panthers Party (NPP), also see the Article 370 as a “hindrance” in the way of achieving the “national interests”.

So when Modi, called for a fresh discussion on the issue he succeeded in satisfying the political desire of the non-Muslim voters of the four non-Muslim majority districts of Jammu.

Aiming to please the Jammu voters, Modi also spoke in the traditional language of all the Jammu based parties alleging discrimination with Jammu. “Jammu and Kashmir government is not doing justice with Jammu and Ladakh,” adding “people should raise their voice jointly in this regard.”

“Modi, like a shrewd politician neither opposed the Article 370 nor  did upset the majority voters of Jammu, Udhampur, Samba and Kuthua, who by and large are in favour of the complete merger of the state with the union of India,” Krishen Sethi, a known political activist and a businessman of Udhampur told Kashmir Life.

A political commentator and Editor of a Srinagar based daily too is of the opinion that Modi succeeded in his aim of visiting Jammu, and all the leaders from Srinagar to New Delhi, who issued statements against his “Lalkaar” about Article 370 in fact helped his success to increase manifold. “What Modi and his fellows in Jammu were wishing was an apparent anti-Kashmir message and it was spread by none other than the saviors of the state’s special status including Congress itself which is going to be its closest rival in Jammu region,” the Editor said.

Article 370 is mostly defended by the valleyites and as far as the Jummuites are concerned they by virtue of their words and deeds are considered to be the “enemies” of it. “So Modi successfully tried to satisfy their political urge by touching the wires of the special status of J&K,” the Editor added.

President Awami Ittihaad Party (AIP) Er. Rashid is of the opinion that National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress, apparently “shed crocodile tears” over Modi’s “Lalkaar” about Art 370.

People-at-Narendra-Modi-Lalkaar-rally-in-Jammu“There is nothing strange in what Modi said because abolishing of Article 370 has been BJP’s demand right from the day one, however, Mufti, Farooq and Soz must ask their conscience what role they or their patrons and masters have played in making dozens of amendments in the said Article,” Rashid asked.

The ruling and the opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir have triggered a fresh debate over the ‘special status’ granted to Jammu and Kashmir by virtue of Article 370 after Modi tried to touch the political nerve of Jammuites.

At his “Lalkaar rally” on December 1, Modi asked for a discussion on whether the special status granted to the state has benefited common people or not.

“For 60 years they talked about autonomy but what did people get? Nothing and there is no accountability also… In the name of separate state, they encouraged separatism. It would have been better if they focused on creating a super state,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir, which has been a flashpoint of dispute between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947, has a “special status” under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

Under this Article, no person from any other state can buy land or property in Jammu and Kashmir however, the said Article has been made flexible to the extent that anybody can seek lease of any type of property for as many as ninety years at a time and the said lease can be extended later for further century.

One of the old demands of the BJP has been the removal of the “Special Status” and to bring the J&K state at par with the other states of the Indian union. The only new thing in Modi’s speech can be termed what is called “a shift in stance” by many commentators by softening it a bit by asking for a discussion to see if it has worked because BJP has always held that its demand of abrogation of Article 370 is non-negotiable.

Modi during his Jammu visit did not forget to lash out at Congress, the apparent rival to his party in the Jammu region. “Some people in the country have invented a herb called ‘secularism’ in concurrence to their sins in J&K.They have added one more thing to it and that is Article 370,” Modi said.

BJP’s apparent aim of abrogating Article 370 is complete merger of J&K with the union of India and so is of every unionist regional parties of Jammu and Kashmir like the ruling National Conference, PDP and the NPP but their approach is based on their political needs and compulsions.

Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah while speaking during a  television program said that there was a lot of confusion among the masses regarding Article 370. He said the law unites J&K with the other states and it serves as a bridge between the state and the rest of the country.

On Modi’s statement on Article 370, Omar said he had nowhere said in his tweets that there should not be a debate on it. However, he warned that a mishandling of the law could destabilize the relations of the state with the rest of the country.

Omar even accepted the demand of Modi’s fresh discussion about the Article 370. “We are ready to discuss the Article 370 in Ahmadabad at any time,” Omar said at a function organized to commemorate Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, on his birth anniversary.

After Modi’s Jammu ‘Lalkaar’, the ruling National Conference and the opposition, now are trying to please the voters of Kashmir by defending the “special status” of the state. Both the parties started the process in fact hours after Modi left the winter capital. PDP Patron Mufti Mohammad Syed, issued a statement for media while as Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister used modern technology of social networking.

“The BJP PM candidate is either very badly informed or very economical with the truth. I’m not sure which one is worse though,” was Omar’sfirst tweet in reaction to ‘Lalkaar’.


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