RSS scrambles for new strategy in Hindu-dominated Jammu and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh as BJP loses valuable vote bank

In Jammu, the BJP had assured to end the perceived hegemony of Muslim-dominated Kashmir, scrapping of Article 370, and deportation of Rohingyas settled in Jammu and seen as a security threat by locals. With all these promises remaining just on papers, Hindus in Jammu have now lost faith in the party.

Arjun Sharma December 31, 2018 10:07:00 IST
RSS scrambles for new strategy in Hindu-dominated Jammu and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh as BJP loses valuable vote bank

Jammu: After Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) debacle in the recently-held assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has started urging Hindus in Jammu and Buddhists in Ladakh region not to opt for the NOTA.

RSS prant sanghchalak of Jammu and Kashmir, Brig (retd) Suchait Singh confirmed the Hindu organisation’s strategy to this correspondent. "While the RSS does not have any political motives, it is only asking the people to avoid NOTA during the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in the state,” said Singh. With the state assembly dissolved and Jammu and Kashmir under President’s rule, assembly elections could be held along with the general elections.

RSS has jumped in to save BJP’s sinking ship in Jammu and Ladakh, where the party has come under a lot of criticism from the locals.

Unfulfilled promises

BJP’s popularity in Hindu-dominated Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh dipped substantially after it failed to make good on its 2014 Lok Sabha poll promises in both regions. Ladakh BJP MP Thupstan Chhewang recently resigned over the unfulfilled promise of making Ladakh a Union Territory (UT), and of including Bhoti language in the eighth schedule.

Before the 2014 general elections, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, too, had promised that the arid desert region would be made a UT once the BJP came to power. It had won all of its 25 state assembly seats from Jammu region, coming to power in alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Suchait Singh said Buddhists in Ladakh have a favourable opinion of RSS and take part in shakhas as well. “Also, two RSS-run schools are in Ladakh educating many," he said, adding that Chhewang, unfortunately, was upset with the BJP, but efforts were on to bring him back.

In Jammu, the BJP had assured to end the perceived hegemony of Muslim-dominated Kashmir, scrapping of Article 370, and deportation of Rohingyas settled in Jammu and seen as a security threat by locals. With all these promises remaining just on papers, Hindus in Jammu have now lost faith in the party.

In the recently-held urban local body (ULB) poll, the BJP was wiped out from Ladakh region, where it failed to win even a single seat in the municipal committee of Leh and Kargil, the only two districts of Ladakh.

Its declining graph in Jammu is evident from the fact that the party was not able to perform well in ULB polls in many areas where it had won during the 2014 assembly elections — in the Kishtwar Municipal Committee, it was left red-faced winning only one out of the total 13 seats; in the municipal committees of Doda, Bhaderwah and Samba, the party won three seats each of the total 17, 13 and 13, respectively, and in the Ramban Municipal Committee, it bagged two of the seven; in Reasi Municipal Committee, it won six of the 13 seats, while in Kathua Municipal Council, it got eight out of the 21, as confirmed in this official notification.

Dousing the fire

RSS scrambles for new strategy in Hindudominated Jammu and Buddhistdominated Ladakh as BJP loses valuable vote bank

File image of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. AP

The 25 December visit of RSS National General Secretary Suresh Joshi, popularly known as Bhaiyyaji Joshi, to Jammu, where he met delegations from the two regions, is being seen as damage control to placate Jammu and Ladakh locals ahead of the polls. BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir top leaders also met Joshi to devise an election strategy.

It's learnt that the RSS leader was upset with the BJP state unit for not being able to handle the situation, leading to its debacle in the ULB polls and Chhewang’s resignation.

The RSS also doesn’t want to let one of its core issues — of Ram Mandir — to slip out of its hands, and has been propagating it in Jammu ahead of the polls.

During his three-day visit, Joshi spoke about the temple and asked the Hindus not to lose hope of its construction. “If Hindus remain united, there is no power in the world that can divide or destroy them. Ram Mandir must be built at Ayodhya, as the matter is linked to the faith of more than 80 crore Hindus,” he said during a religious event in Samba district.

During his visit, it was also decided to woo the Gujjars and Bakarwals who have, since decades, helped security forces by providing information regarding movement of terrorists (the nomadic community moves to mountains in Kashmir and back to plains in Jammu during its seasonal migration through treacherous landscapes).

'BJP has lost its vote base in Jammu'

Political commentator Professor Hari Om said BJP’s vote bank has depleted severely over time. “People of Jammu had voted the saffron party to power over the promise of scrapping of Article 370, Article 35-A, deportation of Rohingyas, providing Hindus with minority rights in Jammu and Kashmir (as the state has a Muslim majority) and re-organisation of the state with Ladakh as a UT. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi fulfils these promises even now, the party can get a boost at the national level,” said the professor.

He added that the winning margins of BJP candidates in the ULB polls were not even a patch on their assembly election ones, “indicating that the party has lost a lot of its vote base in Jammu”.

BJP had publicised its win in 100 wards in Kashmir valley in the ULB polls to give the impression that it was able to win over the locals. The fact, however, is that the saffron party’s candidates had won unopposed reportedly due to a boycott call given by the main players PDP and National Conference (NC).

RSS had already sensed trouble for the BJP, as sah-sarkaryavah Manmohan Vaidya had visited Jammu in March and taken up issues related to the region with BJP ministers. The issues included the infamous Kathua rape, discrimination against Jammu by Kashmir-centric political parties and illegal Rohingya settlers.

Opposition mounts attack

Meanwhile, sensing BJP’s weakening position in Jammu, opponents have started taking potshots at the party. NC Provincial President Devender Singh Rana termed the BJP “a major source of Jammu’s woes”, saying its leaders superimposed their personal welfare over people’s aspirations.

“BJP has lost credibility as well as moral authority to seek votes again by pretending to be Jammu’s messiah, as it failed to fulfill its promises in its three-and-a-half years’ nightmarish rule. During this period, development suffered and Jammu pride sustained severe bruises, with BJP leaders remaining glued to power.”

The BJP had ended its alliance with the PDP in June, after which the state came under the Governor’s rule. Late on November 21, the state assembly was dissolved, paving the way for assembly polls.

The author is a Ludhiana-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com

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