The BJP said on Wednesday it won’t press for abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution that gives special status to poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir in a marked deviation from its previous stance on the issue.
Party state vice-president Ramesh Arora said the Bharatiya Janata Party wanted a debate on the matter taking the people into confidence and added that Muslims would prosper in the Valley if the BJP came to power.
“Kashmiris need to vote en masse for the BJP. This contention is wrong that the BJP is a communal party,” Arora said.
BJP candidate Dr Hina Bhat made headlines this month when she said she would pick up a gun if Article 370 was repealed. Party nominee Darakhshan Andrabi, who’s contesting against chief minister Omar Abdullah, told HT that abrogation of the Article will not even be a part of the BJP’s poll manifesto.
"We have a clear stand on Article 370 which Modi and other leaders of the party have made specifically clear that we want debate and discussions on the issue,” Arora said. “If people think it benefits them, let it be. But if they say it has not benefited them, we will proceed accordingly.”
Confident of its chances in the core Hindu belt of Jammu, the BJP is going all out in the Valley with the target of winning 44 of the state’s 87 assembly seats.
Analysts say with ant-incumbency sentiment growing against the ruling National Conference and the Congress, the BJP will be involved in a direct clash with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) on several key seats.
The PDP, after initially mulling a pre-poll coalition with the BJP, has decided to cash in on the polarisation expected in around 60 Muslim-dominated constituencies of the state, sources said.
Senior party leaders, including PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, took on the BJP over the Article 370 issue at public meetings over the past week.
“Any effort to fiddle with the special status of J&K will have disastrous consequences,” said PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in an election speech at south Kashmir’s Shopian district this week.
Sources say the PDP has asked all its leaders to criticise the BJP instead of traditional rival NC while campaigning for the polls that begin next week.