State Wants To Know Modi's Views On Art 370

21 November 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Jammu: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's magic has travelled to J&K much before he addresses his first election rally for the state Assembly polls in Kishtwar on Saturday. Life-sized hoardings with his smiling face having come up almost everywhere in the bowl-shaped town nestled in the Himalayas. The rally in the Chenab region, comprising six Assembly seats, will be his first in the Assembly polls. Never before has he campaigned in the Assembly polls in this state even though he was a familiar face since January 1992, when he co-led the 'Ekta Yatra' with then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi. Modi's visit is also significant because this is the region where the BJP could not secure more votes than the Congress in any of the six segments during the parliamentary polls. In common parlance, this region is known as Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad's citadel. A host of questions are awaiting Modi before he lands in Kishtwar. Hundreds of party workers are already camping there and several hundred are moving up from the plains and others are descending from the mountains to the town to hear their 'charismatic leader'. The chants of Modi-Modi have already filled the air. The setting for the rally is perfect, suiting his stature. The rally venue, Chogan Maidan, can absorb tens of thousands and has been a historic place from where leaders such as Indira Gandhi have addressed rallies. All are expecting a 'big Modi moment' in Kishtwar tomorrow. If one goes by the hoardings, the message that goes with the pictures of Modi is that of development - no power cuts, better roads and education and dignity in life. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the abrogation of Article 370 or the discrimination with the Jammu region. Instead, the party talks of 'development of all three regions'. BJP workers are enthusiastic because the BJP candidates across the state, particularly the Jammu region, are depending on his wide appeal. Modi's speech would be relayed by the party in all constituencies to suggest that people would be voting for Modi if they vote for BJP. But the biggest question is that where does the BJP stand on Article 370 that grants special status to this only Muslim-majority state in the country. 'Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clarify this,' Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said. And, he has rightly pointed out that the BJP is speaking in different voices in three regions of the state - Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir valley. In Bhaderwah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Article 370 was not an election issue as the party 'wanted a discussion and then we will go by what people of Jammu and Kashmir want.' In Leh, however, he said: 'Article 370 is a hurdle in granting Union Territory status to Ladakh'. Senior BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna, who is looking after the J&K affairs, said the 'BJP will go by the wishes of the people' knowing that the widespread sentiment in the exclusively Muslim-majority Valley is against the abrogation of the special status of the state. Only Prime Minister Modi can provide an answer to this critical question.