BJP leaders and party workers were given the freedom to conduct political rallies, mass contact programs, and other party events
After the Abrogation of Article 370 and reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, all the political activity came to a standstill especially in Kashmir valley. On the other hand, the Jammu region witnessed a flurry of activities where only BJP leaders and karyakartas were given the freedom to roam around freely and conduct political rallies, mass contact programs, and other party events.
In Kashmir valley, since the majority of political leaders were kept under detention for several months there was no scope of holding political rallies and mass contact programs. Disenchanted with the role played by the two mainstream political parties in the past, the local residents were least interested in accepting them as their mass leaders and decided to dump them. It is for this very reason, after the Abrogation of Article 370 and reorganization of the state into two Union territories the region did not witness even a single protest or demonstration in support of the early release of their leaders.
In Kashmir valley, while local leaders remained out of sight for a longer duration, the top brass of the Bharatiya Janta Party sensed an opportunity to further expand the party base across the Kashmir valley.
BJP was given preferential treatment by the ruling dispensation?
Post-Abrogation of Article 370 the leaders of the Congress party were prevented from addressing a press conference in their party office in Jammu and those present there were escorted by the local policemen out of the office building. On the other hand, the BJP leaders regularly conducted press briefings and attended other mass contact programs of the party at several places without facing any resistance.
Several senior National Conference, Congress, and Panther’s party leaders were also detained inside their residences in Jammu and were not allowed to step out or even interact with the media.
In Kashmir valley, while local leaders remained out of sight for a longer duration, the top brass of the Bharatiya Janta Party sensed an opportunity to further expand the party base across the Kashmir valley. While remaining part of the alliance government under the leadership of Mufti Mohd Sayeed and later Mehbooba Mufti, BJP had dented its image. The party ministers were often accused by their supporters for playing second fiddle and acting as Team B of PDP while occupying their ‘hot seats’.
As things went out of control a tug of war started between the disgruntled alliance partners and the marriage of convenience was broken forcing the BJP to withdraw its support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led government in July 2018.
In the coming months, BJP mainly attempted to resurrect the party’s image in the eyes of the voter in its strong bastion of Jammu and started fulfilling its poll promises during the Governor’s rule in the state.
An invitation was also sent to the National General Secretary Ram Madhav to address the gathering of party workers and sympathizers in the Tagore Hall.
Why did the BJP fail to make inroads in Kashmir?
After forming an alliance government with the Peoples Democratic Party, BJP was aiming to make inroads but it failed to attract prominent leaders in its ranks. Those who joined the party rank and file were not strong leaders and some even lacked credibility. The second rung leaders, who were not in the currency in Kashmir valley mainly opted for the BJP and started propagating party programmes with an aim to strengthen the base of the party at the grassroots. But when urban local bodies elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in September-October 2018 the party again failed to win majority seats.
Independent candidates defeated BJP and Congress candidates while National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party boycotted the polls. However, the majority of their dummy candidates managed to win these elections and retained their core voter base.
Post-August 5, sensing an opportunity, the central BJP leaders made yet another attempt to fill the void. Through their local BJP leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, the party started networking with junior political workers who were not office bearers of any other political party.
As the local BJP unit managed to garner the support of these local leaders a meeting of the youth wing was convened in the Tagore Hall of Srinagar. An invitation was also sent to the National General Secretary Ram Madhav to address the gathering of party workers and sympathizers in the Tagore Hall.
On October 21, 2019, Ram Madhav landed in Srinagar for the first time after the reorganization of the state was completed. While addressing a gathering of around 300 party workers Ram Madhav sent across a strong signal to the mainstream politicians not to treat the people of Jammu and Kashmir as fodder for their politics.
Madhav did some straight talking and also said if 200-300 people are to be kept inside jails to achieve the path to peace and development, “then we will keep them”. “You can do your politics without disturbing the peace. Some leaders are sending messages while sitting inside jails that people will take to the gun and sacrifice themselves. I want to tell those leaders to come forward first and sacrifice themselves”, he said
Ironically, these loud speeches also failed to cut much ice with the local people. The choice of party workers never impressed the local population and BJP leaders, despite spending a lot of money and energy failed to build a credible team of leaders. Recently, when terrorists killed a youth BJP leader along with his close relatives, central party leaders rushed to Kashmir valley but once again they exposed their own fault lines. In the absence of any charismatic leader, the party unit ended up losing a young leader who always held the National flag high in Kashmir valley.
Till date, the BJP leaders in Kashmir valley organize a majority of party meetings inside the four walls of the party office in Srinagar and shy away from holding big events for want of cadre. On the other hand, to win back support of people in the Jammu region, BJP has utilized the last 12 months period to reach out to the masses in the Jammu region and made efforts to empower them by fulfilling their long-pending demands.
On the development front, the BJP government at the Centre focussed its attention on completing several flagship projects in a time-bound manner.
Under the guidance of central party leaders, the BJP leaders sorted out the humanitarian demands of the West Pakistani refugees, Gorkhas, Balmikis, and daughters of Jammu and Kashmir. All those people who were deprived of their citizenship rights under the garb of Article 370 were handed over Domicile certificates allowing their kith and kin to apply for jobs and educational courses in Jammu and Kashmir.
On the development front, the BJP government at the Centre focussed its attention on completing several flagship projects in a time-bound manner. Work is going on several other developmental projects in the health and education section. Roads and bridges are being constructed in a big way in remote areas to improve connectivity. Tourism hot spots are being developed across the region to empower local youth to earn their livelihood.
Though the common voter is still not happy with the conduct of the local BJP leaders, in the absence of a strong opposition leader the BJP can still manage to garner the support of the local population by riding high on the back of central leaders.
All this is being done to convey a bigger message to the general voters across Jammu and Kashmir that BJP is not stepping out of the race and is gearing up its poll machinery to take its political adversaries head-on.
Now it is for the common voters to judge the performance of the political party leaders and elect their public representatives whenever elections are held in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir after the completion of Delimitation exercise.
To be continued…
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.