Time to turn J&K into a paradise, says PM Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign for the Maharashtra assembly elections in Nashik by calling for the making of a new Kashmir and the creation of a ”new paradise” in the Valley after the effective revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) last month,
Modi also rebuked “loudmouths”, in an apparent reference to the Shiv Sena, for making comments about the Ram temple issue before the Supreme Court rules on it.
“Earlier, we were raising slogans that ‘Kashmir is ours’. Now, our slogan should be Kashmir ‘banana hai’, we must make a new Kashmir. We must create paradise there again. We must hug every Kashmiri. All 1.3 billion Indians must work in this direction,” Modi said at a public meeting in Nashik.
Modi’s speech made it clear that Kashmir will be at the top of the electoral campaign narrative leading up to the assembly elections later this year in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, where the BJP is seeking re-election. In August, the government nullified Article 370, which conferred special status on J&K, and Article 35A, which reserved privileges like government jobs and property ownership for people deemed to be permanent residents, and divided the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.
The decision to nullify Article 370 was to strengthen the unity of India, Modi said. The implementation of the Constitution in its entirety in J&K wasn’t just a government decision, but taken keeping in view the sentiments of India’s 1.3 billion people, he said.
“This decision is going to be the medium of fulfilling the aspirations and dreams of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
“A lot of efforts are being taken from across the border [in Pakistan] to spread unrest and disbelief and foment violence in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. “The youth, mothers and sisters in Jammu and Kashmir have made up their mind to come out of the long period of violence. They want development and new job opportunities.”
“We had promised that we will make new efforts to curb the problems in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Today, I can say with satisfaction that the country has started walking towards fulfilling those dreams,” he said.
Reacting to Modi’s speech, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant wrote in a tweet: “Somebody should tell the Prime Minister that it’s Maharashtra’s election and not Kashmir’s. In the last five years, the state debt has doubled, the number of farmers’ suicides have tripled..., and unemployment has increased by nearly ten times and corruption has increased by 100%. Talk about that. “
Modi’s public meeting marked the conclusion of the Mahajanadesh Yatra undertaken by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to highlight the achievements of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena government that administers Maharashtra. The Prime Minister took an indirect swipe at the Sena, without mentioning the BJP ally by name.
“I am amazed at the bayan bahadurs and badbole (loudmouths) on the Ram Mandir issue. Everyone in the country respects the Supreme Court. The apex court is hearing the case. I want to tell these people with folded hands to have faith in the judicial system,” said Modi.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray raised the Ram temple issue during Modi’s last visit to the state at a rally in Mumbai, seeking a quick redressal of the dispute. Both Thackeray and Sena mouthpiece Saamna have repeatedly used the issue to brandish the party’s Hindutva credentials and pressurise the BJP.
Thackeray on Monday demanded that the Centre take a “courageous decision” to bring enact law to build a Ram temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya.
“It has been our demand from last year that a special law must be brought in and Ram Mandir should be built... The issue has been going on since 1992. How many years should we wait? We are hearing that the issue is in the final stages in the court. We appeal to the courts to give it decision on the issue. However, beyond that we expect that Centre should not wait for court order and use its powers,” the Sena chief had told reporters here.
Modi on Thursday endorsed Fadnavis’ leadership for having provided a stable government to Maharashtra even without a clear majority and sought a second stint for the party.
“Only two CMs in Maharashtra — Vasantrao (Naik) and Devendra Fadnavis — have been able to complete full terms in the state. Even without a complete majority, we succeeded in providing a stable, progressive and development-oriented government. It is now Maharashtra’s duty to vote for a stable government under Devendra Fadnavis’ leadership,” he said.
BJP and the Sena have decided to contest the polls together, but a formal seat-sharing agreement is still pending because of a tussle over seat sharing. The Sena wants to contest half the seats in the assembly, a demand the BJP has been unwilling to concede.
“Modi’s rebuke on Ram mandir as well as his comments on the Fadnavis’s government is an indication to the Sena that it must pipe down... and settle for a compromise in the seat- sharing agreement. It’s a signal that BJP is the big brother in the alliance in the state and the Centre” said political analyst Prakash Bal.
The Shiv Sena declined to comment on Modi’s speech.
The Prime Minister also took on Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, now seen as the ruling alliance’s principal opponent in Maharashtra, over his statements and position on Kashmir.
“I can understand that Congress is confused but Sharad Pawar. When an experienced leader like you starts making wrong statements for votes, it is sad. Pawar likes our neighbouring country, he thinks parliamentarians there are pro-development. Everyone knows where terror factories are,” the PM said.
Pawar had said on Saturday that the people of Pakistan were “very hospitable” and that he had experienced their hospitality when he was in the country for a cricket series during his tenure as the cricket board president. “They don’t want a war with India. However, in India, a narrative is being created against Muslims and Pakistan for political gains and we must fight against it,” Pawar said.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said Modi had tried to mislead the country about Pawar’s statements. Pawar had said that Pakistan’s parliamentarians and the military were “anti-Indian but the common citizens are not”, he said.