BJP has become increasingly conscious of the fact that its development and peace narrative has not picked up as much pace as it should have in Kashmir. The massive goodwill and the political tilt toward the saffron party in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, the party felt, is running far short of its expectations, and that has prompted it to think of strategies to achieve the desired goal.
At a meeting of the core committee of the party’s J&K unit with Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on Friday, this issue came up as a big concern for the party, as to why its influence, though substantial and politically pleasant, is restricted to the Jammu region, as it has not traveled to the north of the Pir Panjal in the Himalayas into the Valley.
Kashmir is very important for the BJP for multiple reasons; its acceptability in the Valley would help it reinforce that its actions on August 5, 2019 of abrogating Article 370 and subsequent schemes demolishing all the legal and constitutional barricades to showcase itself as a real-time the most popular voice of the peoples from one end to the other of the country – often phrased as Kashmir to Kanyakumari reach. The Muslim-majority character of the Valley is also viewed as convincing the skeptics that the party’s approach is all-inclusive – as pronounced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four mantras, “ Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas, Sab ka Prayas ( With the cooperation of one and all in overall development, confidence and efforts) “
The party discovered, in its analysis, that there were gaps in the Party’s narrative and wholesome willingness of the people to accept it as a party articulating their wishes and aspirations, and the three years since the abrogation of Article 370 which saw infrastructural development and investment proposals running into tens of thousands of crores of rupees and windfall of tourism, along with an end to the decades-long disruptions in normal life – shutdowns, stone throwing and frightening frequency of the acts of terror, were troubling.
Shah exhorted the party leaders to double their efforts to increase reach in the Valley. The three-point strategy has been devised to fully embrace Kashmir, and in turn make Kashmir embrace the party , politically and ideologically where the diversity is accommodated in an attempt to forge unity of thought and action for the overall development of the Valley and its people.
First, it will accelerate people-oriented development. The thrust would be on the empowerment through development in infrastructure, focused on connectivity through roads, bridges; hospitals, schools, and hands-on approach toward the people. The development would be showcased as development of the people, by the people and for the people. This will be bottom up approach.
Second, it would further boost its narrative among the Pahari-speaking population in the Valley that it is working to promote the community, to ensure better political and economic prospects for the community reeling from its own grievances for decades. It is reflecting how Paharis would be getting their due in recognition of their aspirations in the party’s policies. All the neglect that it has suffered over the years would be reversed. Alongside, it will woo the nomadic community of Gujjars and Bakerwals with what it has already done – reserving 9 seats in the Assembly for the community, it is a never-before benefit for the community that had been asking for this reservation since decades.
Third, it is looking to move in and fill the gaps which are there, and also expanding because of the intra, and internal, and inter-parties fight among the regional parties. Even the National Conference that is carrying the burden of leading the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, to restore the autonomy of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, has done incalculable damage to its reputation as being the single unit. A revolt of sort has grown in the Party, with a provincial committee meeting, presided over by the second most important functionary vice president Omar Abdullah in the party’s hierarchy , unilaterally resolved to contest all the 90 seats in the Assembly polls as and when held. This put paid to the unity of the alliance that had been striving to put up a united face during the elections. PDP, the second most important constituent of the Alliance, is not happy but has restricted to the comments that the PAGD was far much larger purpose than the electoral alliances. BJP is watching how the regional groups will damage themselves by their won acts – credibility crisis has hit the constituents of the PAGD, despite brave words of NC president Farooq Abdullah that the final decision will be taken close to the elections.
The BJP will start work on these points soon, but the real thing hampering it is having no credible face in the J&K unit to expand its narrative in Kashmir. The search is on for this face, meantime, the party would make its leaders to visit Kashmir quite frequently and speak in the language which connects with the masses, shorn of rhetoric of biases.