In less than two-months of government formation, the Bharatiya Janata Party is yet again facing criticism for the perceived "surrender" of its ideological position and "betraying" the mandate of the Jammu voters.
This time it's about setting up an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Kashmir Valley instead of Jammu.
While the earlier protests in Jammu, over chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's statement minister Pakistan and separatists for peaceful elections, and then the release of separatist Masarat Alam, were more about symbolism, this time it has the potential of hitting it politically.
The BJP won 25 out of the 37 assembly seats from Jammu. It not only pushed the Congress to the corner but also politically decimated the Panthers Party, which in last assembly had three MLAs.
The budget statement of the state finance minister proposing to set up AIIMS at Kashmir and then its reiteration by the CM gave an opportunity to these parties, especially the Congress, looking for an opportunity to hit out at the BJP, to stay relevant in Jammu, their main political catchment area.
Incidentally, the proposal to set up AIIMS was made when former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee was heading the NDA government and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the chief minister in his earlier stint.
The BJP has ever since assumed the role of "safe-guarding" the interests of the Jammu region and accused Congress of surrendering before the Kashmir-based parties. BJP rallied the electorate in the Jammu province - it didn't get a seat in the Valley - to give "voice" and "equal" treatment to its people. The BJP was successful in creating this perception.
The Congress is off-the-block and quite early to hit out at this perception. The grand-old-party is quite mature to realise that
politics is more about perception than reality. The hard reality is also that the Congress was in power for 12 years and it could have worked to make AIIMS operational in Jammu if it was so serious.
But like perceptions, symbolism is equally critical. The Congress could work on the symbolism that it at-least didn't shift the AIIMS to Kashmir.
It's trying to build up public mood that BJP is more on rhetoric than substance and could "surrender" and "shift" its ideology for
'chumps' of governance. The BJP with 25 seats has only five ministers in the 16-member cabinet, while Congress had seven cabinet ministers with just 17 seats in the outgoing government.
Sensing trouble, the BJP has already started coming out openly against the decision on AIIMS. Health and medical education minister Lal Singh reportedly said the Centre has merely mentioned making AIIMS in the state and not in the Valley, as is being played out.
Industries minister Chander Parkash Ganga said the BJP will not allow AIIMS to be built in Kashmir.
Convincing the Centre to reconsider its decision after a statement by the CM in the assembly would not only be politically tough but also time-consuming.
And, even if the decision is reversed, the BJP would find it tough to explain on both the counts.
BJP is still naïve about governance in the state, but it would have to work hard to change the perception.