Gujarat chief minister and senior BJP leader Narendra Modi on Sunday invoked former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's policy on Kashmir.
"Vajpayee ji's government applied balm to the wounds of the people of the Kashmir. He won over the hearts of the people. We will carry his policy forward if voted to power," said Modi, while addressing a rally at Madhopur of Pathankot district in neighbouring Punjab.
Modi's statement has been welcomed by National Conference. "I have deep regard for Vajpayee ji and hold him in high esteems. If Modi wants to pursue the policies of Vajpayee on Kashmir, we welcome it," said NC MLA Mustafa Kamal, who is also brother of party president Farooq Abdullah.
However, a few days back chief minister Omar Abdullah had said that his party can't be part of the NDA as there was no leader left in BJP to match the stature of Vajpayee. This was Modi's first rally after becoming the party's campaigning chief.
Addressing a rally in the heart of Srinagar in April 2003, Vajpayee had said: "We have come here to share your grief and pain…Guns can't solve problems. Guns can only kill people and can't feed them." Modi on Sunday too spoke on the same lines. "Gun can only bring violence and death. The need of the hour is peace, integrity and compassion," said Modi.
Modi also talked about rights of Kashmiri Pandits and people of Jammu and Ladakh.
Panun Kashmir leaders too have also welcomed Modi's statement. "He has talked in constructive and positive manner and we welcome his statement. We are also thankful to him for mentioning Kashmiri Pandits and also about people of Jammu and Ladakh," said Agnishekhar, chairman of Panun Kashmir, an organization of Kashmiri Pandits.
Modi also tried to dispel the impression that he was anti-Muslim.
Modi's speech has also been welcomed by PDP but its leadership is not willing to come on record apprehending that it may be exploited by their opponents. "He is trying to be inclusive and constructive. And if he means what he said about Kashmir and wants to follow the steps of Vajpayee, we welcome it. Modi has emerged as the tallest leader of BJP and if he wants to be soft on Kashmir its more than good as his leadership in the party is unchallenged now," said a senior PDP leader, wishing not to be named.