BJP president for Jammu and Kashmir, Ravinder Raina insists that it is important that Jammu and Kashmir should remain a UT for some more time. If the statehood is restored, he told Yawar Hussain, ‘these same old people’ would come back to power and form governments and scrap all the good new laws.
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): BJP has been talking about a Naya Kashmir but now common people in Srinagar are frisked on roads. Is this the Naya Kashmir?
RAVINDER RAINA (RR): That frisking is also for the betterment of common people only. It is for the security concerns of people. The enemy is lurching for the moment. Didn’t you see recently that RDX was recovered here in Jammu city as well?
KL: Was there frisking of common people in Jammu also?
RR: We caught a couple of militants and there were security checkpoints set up across the city.
KL: But isn’t there a difference between checkpoints and frisking of civilians on roads?
RR: I told you that frisking is for the common people’s benefit. There might be someone among the crowd who might want to carry out an attack in a bus or some other place. For safeguarding innocent people such measures are necessary sometimes.
KL: Does that mean the situation in Kashmir isn’t alright?
RR: The situation isn’t bad but may God save us from Pakistan. We can’t trust them.
KL: Aren’t such scenes of frisking civilians on roads reminiscent of the Kashmir situation in the 1990s?
RR: No, that was a storm. I have seen that. This can’t be compared with that.
KL: If Pakistan isn’t as trustworthy as you said, then how did a sudden ceasefire happen?
RR: The Director-General of Military Operations of two countries deliberated and this happened. Such ceasefires have happened in the past as well and I hope this time the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) do act in a sincere manner.
KL: Does that mean talks with Pakistan might happen?
RR: Who would one talk to in Pakistan? When Atal Behari Vajpayee talked to Nawaz Sharif then Kargil war took place. Later he (Vajpayee) talked to Parvez Musharraf and parliament was attacked. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked to Nawaz Sharif, Pathankot happened. The common thread here is that Pakistan’s civilian governments are working under the army and ISI.
KL: A Jammu Declaration is being propounded. How does the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) see it?
RR: See there are a few people from Kashmir who through their politics have earlier ruined the Valley. It is these very people who are now trying to ruin Jammu as well. But the people of Jammu know such people. So these so-called declarations won’t work here. Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and only Indian declarations would work here. This political propaganda of the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, and Congress are known to the people.
KL: But this Jammu Declaration isn’t being propounded by the people associated with the parties you mentioned. There are former BJP people from Jammu as well. What would you say to them?
RR: As I said earlier, there are people in Jammu who burnt Kashmir. Their desires haven’t been fulfilled yet and that is why they want to drown Jammu as well. Sometimes these declarations are conspiracies emanating from Kashmir valley. They are propounded by people who aren’t well-wishers of either Jammuites or Kashmiris neither do they think good of Hindus or Muslims.
KL: In the recent District Development Council elections you haven’t done well. What happened?
RR: BJP has emerged as the strongest and largest party in the DDC elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
KL: But you have won in just six districts. Why so?
RR: We have secured above nine lakh votes in these elections and won 76 seats as well.
KL: But securing votes is because there was less turnout in Valley where your rival PAGD won. What has hurt you?
RR: We are the single largest party. BJP secured DDC chairperson and vice-chairperson posts in six districts on their own without anyone’s support. We have also opened our account in Kashmir not just in DDC’s but also in BDC, Panchayat and Municipal elections. You will see in the coming time that our numbers will only increase.
KL: But in Kashmir, you have won just three seats out of 140 in DDC elections. How is that a victory?
RR: Our Panch and Sarpanch candidates have won in the Panchayat elections in Kashmir along with Block Development Council chairpersons who have also been won on our symbol. At one point in time, there used to be no one to even hold the BJP flag in the Valley but today people there are running for seeking a mandate of our party. In the coming time, you will see the footprints of the BJP across Jammu and Kashmir and also the next Chief Minister would from our party as well.
KL: Are you satisfied with the protection in terms of job reservations and land rights in Jammu and Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370?
RR: The new land and job protections for people in Jammu and Kashmir are the best. People of Jammu and Kashmir welcomed these laws when they were brought in.
KL: But why didn’t people vote across J&K for you then in DDC elections?
RR: In Jammu, we did win. And we fight every election with full strength.
KL: Property Tax is being criticized. What is your stand on it?
RR: There is no talk of Property Tax because it hasn’t been implemented yet.
KL: But the notification has been issued. What would J&K BJP do if it is implemented?
RR: The General House of each Municipal Corporation and Councils have to pass it. If they do it then it is alright but I don’t think the elected representatives in those houses would implement it.
KL: But what was the need for bringing it then?
RR: There is no need for this tax.
KL: But it has been brought in by the central government headed by BJP?
RR: This tax wasn’t brought in by the central government. This is the fault on the part of the bureaucracy.
KL: Are you suggesting that there are faults in the functioning of bureaucracy in J&K?
RR: Yes, the bureaucracy in J&K has many faults.
KL: So is PDP President and your former ally Mehbooba Mufti right in terming the present rule in J&K as Jungle Raj?
RR: She is disturbed because her party members have deserted her.
KL: But she has been accusing BJP of breaking up her party. Did you do it?
RR: How are we to be blamed if her party members are running away.
KL: She has been alleging that BJP has been employing various agencies to break her party. How do you respond to that charge?
RR: There are other political parties as well, why aren’t they alleging these things. She cannot keep her house in order and then she blames us.
KL: There has been politics around the restoration of statehood in J&K. Union Home Minister had promised it on the floor of the parliament. Would it be restored?
RR: People of Jammu and Kashmir had a state for 70 years where NC, PDP, and Congress governments looted people.
KL: But you were part of a government with PDP as well. So aren’t you also sailing in the same boat?
RR: We tried to warn them that they shouldn’t loot people and when they (PDP) didn’t mend their ways we withdrew our support to that government.
KL: But when would the statehood come back?
RR: I believe Jammu and Kashmir should remain a Union Territory (UT) for some more time. It is important. Otherwise, these same old people would come back to power and form governments.
KL: Does that mean there would be no government in Jammu and Kashmir till it is a UT?
RR: There would be governments in Jammu and Kashmir till it is a UT but the power would reside with the Lieutenant Governor. In a state, they would scrap all the good new laws and resort to the same old corrupt practices.
KL: Separate statehood for Jammu is also being talked about. Would BJP support it?
RR: First, let Jammu and Kashmir become a state again then we will see. But I again reiterate that Union Territory is the best way to overhaul the governance system. There has been injustice with the people of Kashmir and Jammu both by only two families. They would grab power if the statehood is restored.
KL: Your sole member supported the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) in the Srinagar district for the post of District Development Council chairperson. They supported you in one Jammu province district. Is it the beginning of a future alliance?
RR: We didn’t support them neither did they. BJP will defeat Altaf Bukhari’s party, Sajad Lone’s party along NC, PDP, CPIM, and Congress.
KL: But JKAP is being referred to as your B-team by some people. How would respond to that?
RR: Nobody is our B-team. We don’t need them.
KL: The much-hyped Global Investors Summit post-August 5 never materialized. What happened?
RR: The Coronavirus ruined all the plans for that summit.
KL: But that summit was announced eight months before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. What would you say about that?
RR: The preparation for that summit was going on in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and other places when the pandemic hit us.
KL: Why isn’t it being talked about now?
RR: We had talked to big investors for that summit. The summit had to take place in Jammu as well as in Kashmir if the Covid-19 had not come in between.
KL: Why are these failed central Public Sector Undertakings being brought into Jammu and Kashmir post-August 5 when they are being discredited by the Finance Ministry?
RR: We plan to do good work for people and would take all measures towards that front. Maybe these PSUs do good work here in Jammu and Kashmir and if they don’t then we will take the next step to correct it.
KL: J&K Congress is divided into two factions after Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Jammu visit. Each faction is alleging that the other is doing it at BJP’s behest. Is any faction associated with you?
RR: This is Congress’s party’s internal issue and I should not be commenting on it but one thing that we can understand from this whole episode is that only a person with a Gandhi surname can survive in Congress or a person who is a sycophant of that surname. Till Ghulam Nabi Azad used to praise this surname, he was a leader but the day he stopped praising his effigy is being burnt. Congress is a party of one family where no one else can command any respect.