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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Will Modi's speech alter PM's address?

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, June 24, 2013
First Published: 20:57 IST(24/6/2013) | Last Updated: 20:58 IST(24/6/2013)

BJP's chief election campaigner Narendra Modi reconciliatory and moderate speech on Kashmir, many experts believe, may have the writers of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Srinagar address rethinking.

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Of late, the Congress, it is perceived here, has hardened its stand on Kashmir. The hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru reflected toughening of the approach and did annoy a constituency in the Valley. Many see Guru's hanging as a result of competing politics with the BJP in an election year.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's June 15 Budgam speech also marked departure from the past. He suggested that Pakistan situation has no bearing on Kashmir saying, "we cannot be dependent on what is going on in the rest of the world."

In contrast, Modi's Sunday speech in Punjab saw scaling down of the BJP's tone on Kashmir. Skipping favourite lines like "attacking PoK" and "challenging terrorists", Modi talked about "healing wounds of people" and promised to pick up where former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee left. Vajpayee has earned goodwill for his "Insaniyat ke dairay mein" (Within limits of humanity) solution remark.

The ruling National Conference has already welcomed Modi's speech.

"In a departure, Modi was trying reach out to people of Kashmir with a positive message and also to Muslims of India, though he has to do a lot to do away with his past baggage. It will be interesting to see if his speech will frame the PM's speech," said Gul Muhammad Wani, director of Kashmir University's Institute of Kashmir and South Asian Studies.

Singh is scheduled to address in Srinagar on June 25 during his two-day Kashmir visit. "I expect him to acknowledge fresh change in Pakistan after successful polls there and pledge to reengage it," said Wani

Opposition Peoples Democratic Party MLC and spokesman Naeem Akhtar sees the Modi speech nudging some changes in PM's address.

"Modi has claimed the legacy of Vajpayee, who extended hand of friendship to Pakistan. Modi has a lot to do to prove his credentials. But Modi's speech may impact PM's address. Modi's provided an occasion for PM Manmohan Singh, who himself represents peace constituency within the country, to catch the bull by horn and go all out to address Pakistan and also the internal dimension," said Akhtar.

Shakeel Qalander, who was a member of PM's Rangarajan committee, said, "The recent remarks of senior Congress leader Makhan Lal Fotedar (who talked about NC giving up on autonomy) is an indication that the Centre is not serious to resolve the Kashmir problem."

He, however, has hopes that the PM will make a move to hand over power projects back to Kashmir to earn goodwill.


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