On Thursday, Narendra Modi launched the BJP's Assembly election campaign in Maharashtra, at the end of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' 4,000-kilometre "Mahajanadesh Yatra" in Nashik.
Addressing a huge gathering, Modi spoke about the achievements of the Fadnavis government, developmental initiatives taken by the Central government in its second term and how political pundits have often got predictions wrong. However, Modi's remarks on Kashmir constituted the highlight of his speech.
Barring the Red Fort address on 15 August, this was perhaps the first occasion when the prime minister spoke at length about the government's swift, bold and decisive move on Jammu and Kashmir. In response to the speech at Nashik, the crowd loudly cheered Modi's statements on the subject.
The prime minister is scheduled to leave soon for a week-long tour to the United States. During the trip, he is slated to take part in several bilateral and multilateral meetings. He will also address the United Nations General Assembly, and of, course, address the "Howdy, Modi!" programme, where US president Donald Trump is also expected to be present. His remarks about building a new Kashmir which would be a "paradise on earth again" come in this context. The prime minister was addressing not just the domestic constituency through these remarks but also the international community.
Modi said at Nashik, "Till yesterday, the slogan was that Kashmir is ours. Now, every Indian will say that we need to build a new Kashmir, embrace Kashmiris and heal their wounds." He also said that he is working on unleashing a new era of development in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Through these statements, the prime minister has sought to counter the Pakistani establishment's false propaganda, through which it has been trying to build international opinion. Modi has now set the narrative, which can be used by other leaders and officials in India to put across their points effectively at international fora, particularly at the US next week.
At Nashik on Thursday, Modi spoke about how the Central government, which has been re-elected after a full term, has taken action in its first 100 days. As soon as made a reference to Jammu and Kashmir, people responded with loud approval. He appeared to be relishing the crowd's response to his words.
The prime minister also took the opportunity to take on Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar. Targeting the Congress leader, he said that people should recognise and accordingly deal with people whose statements were used by India's enemy to attack the country at international fora. Recently, Rahul was quoted in the opening pages of a Pakistani propaganda document on Kashmir presented before the UNHRC.
Modi further said on Thursday, "I can understand the confusion of the Congress. But Sharad Pawar? I feel bad when an experienced leader like him makes wrong statements for votes. He said he likes the neighbouring country. But everyone knows where the terror factory is."
In the upcoming Maharashtra elections, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine is up against the Congress-NCP coalition. Recently, several Congress and NCP leaders have crossed over to the BJP, including Udayanraje Bhonsale, a descendant of Maratha warrior king Shivaji.
Modi in his rally took on Pawar on the issue of nationalism and also invoked the valour of Shivaji. Through this, he sent out a message to the electorate, particularly the Maratha community.
The prime minister's focus on Kashmir must be seen in the light of the fact that Nashik sends a substantial number of youngsters to the defence forces.
Apart from Kashmir, he also spoke in detail about the Ayodhya dispute. He said that while the Supreme Court has been devoting a great deal of time and energy in hearing the case, some "loudmouths" have been speaking out of turn. The prime minister said, "Where do they come from? What is their intent? Why do they want to obstruct the judicial process? Do they not have faith the judicial system and the Supreme Court?"
By the time Modi returns from his tour to the United States, the poll schedule for Maharashtra will have been announced. As of now, he has set the narrative for his party and support base.
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Updated Date: Sep 19, 2019 19:26:02 IST