Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an emotional pitch for the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, vowing to bring development to the militancy-torn state if his party was voted to power in the assembly polls starting this month.
Modi evoked former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s inclusive approach in Kishtwar town of the Doda region, saying he shared a deep bond with the state as a crowd of about 50,000 hang on to his every word.
“I have an emotional bond with Kashmir,” Modi said with moist eyes. “I can understand the potential and desires of Kashmiri youth. Whatever has happened in the past will not be repeated.”
With the people angry at the ruling National Conference (NC) for its listless rescue efforts during the September floods, the BJP is hoping to form its first ever government in the state and has put up 25 Muslim candidates.
It is also banking heavily on the Hindu-majority Jammu region that has 37 seats. However, the party has never won a seat in the Doda region, where Hindus constitute 45% of the total population.
“Vajpayee’s approach of jahmoriyat (democracy), insaaniyat (humanism) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri ethos) will be carried forward. I hope to fulfill this dream,” the PM said in an address intended to go beyond the town and reach out to voters in the neighbouring Kashmir Valley.
“Don’t mix religion with politics,” the PM said, invoking his pet theme of development. “Our mantra is only development, development and development.”
Modi’s speech was also peppered with promises to revive the state’s tourism industry and bring Bollywood back to Kashmir.
“I have to bring Bollywood back to Kashmir,” he said in his fifth visit to the state after becoming Prime Minister. “I have to bring back tourism to the state and I have to make J&K the ultimate tourist destination in the world.”
A day after he urged Jharkhand’s voters to use the ballot to boot out dynastic rules, he made a similar appeal to Kashmiris, lashing out at the state’s two major regional parties, the NC and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“Why have you mortgaged the state to the two families?” Modi thundered, without naming the Abdullahs and the Muftis. “These two families even saw an opportunity to loot after floods, eyeing financial assistance from the Centre. If we recover that money, the state will develop without any monetary support.”
Both parties have ruled the state by turns, and although the PDP has governed the state for only three years, it had a windfall in the Lok Sabha polls and is hopeful of emerging as the single-largest party in the assembly elections.