Shutloo, Jammu and Kashmir: It must be a record of sorts in Kashmir, even for the BJP. The party, which hopes to win “all three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir”, managed to get only 78 people for its maiden rally in the area of Rafiabad in north Kashmir on Sunday.
It was an embarrassing moment for Mohammed Maqbool War, who is fighting on a BJP ticket, and lives just three kilometres from the venue of the rally in Rohama area of Rafiabad. There were more security personnel guarding the venue than the number of people participating in the rally.
“What are they doing here, and who is he?,” Shareef ud din Bhat, 63, a resident of Shutloo area of Rafiabad asked at the venue as War started speaking. Bhat said he had never seen the BJP candidate and was unaware that he is fighting the election on a BJP ticket.
At the rally, War said, "These are the only people (referring to those in the audience) who have security and are ready to come in front of the camera." Subsequently, he addressed BJP leader and former deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Nirmal Singh, who was present at the venue, and said, "Doctor sahib, one of these workers is equal to one thousand workers of National Conference,” he continued.
At the rally, Nirmal Singh said Pakistan has always supported “terrorism” in Kashmir and never tried to have a dialogue with India. He invoked Vajpayee, arguably the most popular BJP leader in Kashmir, and did not mention Prime Minister Narendra Modi much. However, a curious member of the audience asked, "Who is this Vajpayee?"
Singh said, "Modi also followed Atalji, but what we got from Pakistan was only deception and terrorism...Gowhar Bhat of the BJP youth wing was killed, as were Shabir Bhat of Pulwama, DSP Ayub Pandit, SHO Imtiyaz, Captain Umar Fayaz, my friend Shujaat Bukhari, editor of Rising Kashmir, who was working for peace in Kashmir. You can't kill people and talk of peace in the same breath.”
He further said, “We are telling people that there is money that needs to be spent by people whom you elect. That money is of the people. The government doesn’t give that money for building personal properties. That is what these two parties in Kashmir (NC and PDP) have done in the last three decades. That is why we are asking people in Kashmir to vote for us, and we will show them how public money can be used for better infrastructure development.”
The BJP, which got its highest vote share in Jammu and Kashmir ever in the last Lok Sabha election, is fighting on all seats in the state. It has fielded three candidates in the Kashmir Valley. In Jammu, its sitting MP and Minister of State in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, is in the fray again from Udhampur. Observers say he may not win as comfortably as he did last time. In 2014, he defeated Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad by a margin of 60,976 votes.
Another BJP leader, Jugal Kishore Sharma, will seek re-election from the Jammu seat, which he won by a record 2.26 lakh votes in 2014. However, he faces a tough challenge this time as Lal Singh, a former BJP leader who founded his own party, is in direct contest with him.
In Kashmir, the BJP has realised that the ongoing crackdown against separatists and militants, and the stance of looking at Kashmir through a security prism, has pushed people to the wall. Therefore, the party leaders are talking about Atal Bihari Vajpayee, gas connections, Mudra Schemes and the One Rank One Pension scheme.
“We have given three lakh gas connection to people in north Kashmir,” Des Kumar Nehru, the BJP district president for Baramulla, told this reporter. “I know people who will vote for us. They might not be here, because there is fear, but they will vote.” he said.
In Jammu, the BJP's main electoral base in the state, the party managed to pull thousands of people for its rallies. But in Kashmir, it has to be content with gatherings such as the one in Rafiabad.
The Lok Sabha constituency of Baramulla is spread over 15 Assembly segments in three districts of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora. There are nine candidates in the fray, but the main contest is going to be between Muhammad Akbar Lone of the National Conference (NC), Raja Aijaz Ali of the Peoples Conference (PC) and Abdul Qayoom Wani of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Baramulla goes to the polls in the first phase of the Lok Sabha election on 11 April. The constituency has 13,12,148 voters and 1,749 polling stations.
In 2014, PDP candidate Muzaffar Hussain Beig won the seat, getting 1,75,277 votes compared to 146058 votes won by his nearest rival, Sharief Ud-Din Shariq from the National Conference. However, political observers say he failed miserably to even visit his own constituents.
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Updated Date: Apr 01, 2019 18:12:48 IST