A Year Later, BJP's Popularity Graph In J-K Takes A Dip

28 May 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arteev Sharma

Jammu: A year after assuming power at the Centre, the BJP's popularity graph seems to have dropped significantly in Jammu and Kashmir, courtesy the party's 'stoic silence' on contentious and Jammu-specific issues. The BJP had won 25 out of 37 Assembly seats in Jammu province in the last state elections, while it had also secured three out a six parliamentary seats in Lok Sabha elections last year. Since the formation of the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir on March 1, the saffron party has been finding it hard to convince its electorate on the 'muted silence' of its ministers against the decision of 'shifting' AIIMS to Kashmir and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's statement to abandon the much-ambitious artificial lake project on the Tawi. Insignificant or no action on the core issues like abrogation of Article 370, permanent settlement of refugees, UT status to Ladakh, setting up of AIIMS in Jammu, etc on which the party had sought mandate in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections has put the BJP on a sticky wicket despite the fact that it had launched a damage control exercise to clarify its stand before the common masses. Apart from this, the BJP parliamentarians from J&K have so far failed to make their presence felt among the electorate. Consequently, the party had to face embarrassment recently when the 'missing posters' of two MPs cropped up in their respective constituencies. If that was not enough, the Jammu region observed complete shutdown on April 24 against the shifting of AIIMS, charging of toll at Ban and other issues related to traders and businessmen. It was for the first time that the region had witnessed 'unprecedented and complete shutdown'. It was largely an 'expression of anguish' against the BJP, which had always projected itself to be a champion of Jammu's cause. The Coordination Committee's - an amalgamation of about 70 social, religious and political organisations minus BJP - call for Jammu bandh on Wednesday also evoked massive response, with all business establishments remaining closed and public transport going off roads. The shutdown was against the shifting of AIIMS to the Kashmir Valley from Jammu and Chief Minister's statement on abandoning the artificial lake project which was near completion. Sharp criticism has put the BJP leaders in a fix as they have been making 'contradictory' statements on the AIIMS issue. BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi on Tuesday said the AIIMS should be set up at an 'equidistant' place from both the regions while the state BJP president Jugal Kishore Sharma had said that AIIMS would be established in Jammu. A senior BJP leader, who wished not to be named, admitted that the party had not been able to deliver on its promises so far. 'We have so far not been able to deliver on our commitments. People had great expectation from us. They expected that the BJP would address the issue of regional discrimination,' the BJP leader said. He, however, reiterated that the party would deliver on its promises. 'It is just a three-month-old government.We are confident that we will deliver a transparent and effective government in the days to come.'