As Kashmir goes to the polls next week, it's Narendra Modi's name that is being raised at election rallies this time. Although the BJP remains a non-entity on the ground in the Kashmir valley, this Lok Sabha election however is being fought with the saffron party being the at the centre of the debate around the party's prime ministerial candidate and his controversial statements. From mainstream political parties to hardline separatist outfits, everyone is talking about Modi to lure voters with.
The National Conference (NC), which is contesting all six constituencies in the state in alliance with the Congress, has been declaring that "Modi as Prime Minister is dangerous for an integral India". The party is also hinting at a "secret pact" having been struck between the BJP and the People's Democratic Party (PDP), which in turn keeps reminding the NC of having been part of the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also entered the fray, claiming that Modi has been sending emissaries to meet Kashmir separatists. Geelani also claimed that moderate separatists, who have been softening their stand on Modi, have also met the senior BJP leader's men. The charge has been denied by the BJP and moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Seeking votes for the NC-Congress joint candidate Mehboob Beigh in the South Kashmir constituency, state chief minister Omar Abdullah and NC patron Farooq Abdullah have been announcing that "a vote for PDP is a vote for BJP".
Beigh is being challenged by PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in South Kashmir as he seeks re-election from the seat on April 24.
Addressing numerous rallies, Omar has alleged that the BJP gave rise to the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir to "deceive the people and nurture its communal agenda through the PDP".
Acknowledging Modi's importance in this election, chief minister Omar Abdullah told HT recently, "Modi is an important factor here because of the understanding between Modi and the Muftis. The way the PDP has conspired to divide votes to benefit the BJP makes Modi a factor."
This prompted PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to hit back. "The NC had a record 60 members in the state assembly and was under no compulsion to join the NDA. But it sacrificed the confidence and faith of the people just for Omar Abdullah to become a junior minister in the BJP-led government," he said.
Rubbishing rumours of any secret alliance with the BJP, PDP spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said, "Modi is no factor for us. We never mentioned him. The issue for us is who represents Kashmir best in Parliament. Who becomes Prime Minister of the country is decided elsewhere. We just have six seats in the entire state. How will we make any difference?"
He went on to add, "We have dealt with both the NDA and the UPA and we have no problem. There is no question of our going with the BJP. The NC-Congress alliance has no other issues left, so they are making up these stories to create a Modi-scare."