Lost opportunity for Jammu and Ladakh

Rajan Gandhi

Resignation of Ladakh MP, Thupstan Chhewang senior leader from Ladakh, has not only embarrassed the state BJP leadership but even Central leadership is feeling the heat and this has not come as a surprise to many as it was expected coming any time. More stinging is the letter of Ladakh MP to PM Modi, disrobing his own party in full public, alleging central leadership of total disconnect with the ground realities and what he has written in his letter is not out of context. Not a single university even after 71 years of independence despite promise in BJP’s 2014 election manifesto as well and still elusive UT status for Ladakh region seems rhetoric only never to be implemented. Another unfulfilled promise is railway connectivity of Ladakh via Bilaspur of HP. With only 4 MLAs to represent in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Ladakh has never got its due, neither in the past nor now.
In this July itself MP Thupstan and Chering Dorjay, BJP MLC and a minister in PDP-BJP Government alleged “worst ever discrimination” with Ladakh region during PDP-BJP Government in their meeting with Governor NN Vohra. Even four Executive Councilors of LAHDC including the officiating Chairman-cum-Chief Executive Councilor, all of whom belonged to the BJP had a separate meeting with the Governor and also complained about stalled projects and lack of adequate support to the Council from the PDP-BJP Government. Results of both Leh and Kargil are a testimony to what all of them pointed out but no corrective action was taken. With no proper planning or thinking for elections dooms day for the party was not far away and it happened.
Story of Jammu Division is not different if one goes through both the Election Manifesto of 2014 Parliamentary elections or Vision Document of assembly elections. BJP promised abrogation of Article 370 in parliamentary elections but the promise was missing in its Vision Document as well as Agenda of Alliance along with Article 35A. More shocking is the fact that in Supreme Court also Central Government stand is dilly – delaying on one pretext or another as well as Home Minister’s statement that GoI right now don’t have any plan to repeal Article 370. Practically speaking with high political stakes in the valley as well, as of now BJP is not going to tinker with any of the two on the pretext of matter is subjudice. Renaming of the state as Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, a proposal to cut short the assembly’s tenure to five years instead of six and state subject status to daughters who have married outside the state and to their children were other important issues missing from Vision Document of BJP. The list of unfulfilled promise of BJP’s Vision Document included the dream shown to WPR of 25 lakhs compensation each family which has been reduced to 5.5 lakhs that too for 1947 refugees only not to 1965 or1971 war refugees but without PRC or voting rights as promised in Vision Document. Another promise of 5 marla plots for border residents bearing the brunt of Pakistan shelling remains a dream only. Similarly KPs were promised dignified return to valley with proper rehabilitation under security cover but nothing tangible happened on ground. The party had promised to reserve 5 seats for POJK refugees in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and 3 seats for Kashmiri Pandits out of 46 seats of Kashmir valley but as usual promises are never to be fulfilled. Moreover, the party had also promised to abolish Custodian Department and property rights to the present occupants, but the custodian department is still working and no proposal to transfer property to present occupants. ‘TIME’ model; tourism, infrastructure, modernization, empowerment was the vision and practically speaking BJP failed miserably on all four fronts. IT hub, Sharda University, Devnagari as language, 33 per cent reservation to women in the Legislative Assembly and legislative council were few other promises never to be fulfilled.
Interestingly despite all these promises BJP could muster 25 seats only against much hyped ‘Mission 44+’ and ultimately landed in alliance with PDP despite the fact that PDP promised implementation of Sharia in its manifesto, through self-rule PDP advocated shared sovereignty with Pakistan, advocates open borders with Pakistan, wants Pakistani currency to be valid in Kashmir and unfortunately none of this was explicitly blocked in the PDP-BJP AoA. All these humiliating compromises were done for the supposed empowerment of Jammu. But what they got for Jammu that it did not have already? Jammu already had the post of a deputy CM for as long as one can remember as such the one offered to BJP was nothing new. It was really shocking that the BJP (with 25+1+2 MLAs) could not get to have their own CM for at least half the term. Mufti’s first term as the CM was on the strength of only 16 PDP MLAs. Of the 16 Cabinet Ministers, BJP could manage only 4 for Jammu all in the name of Jammu’s empowerment and the portfolios allocation was another joke for Jammu as none of the important ones like home, finance, rural development, education, public works, revenue, and tourism was give to the BJP. Sajjad Lone seems the only one to show some self esteem on this issue by refusing to accept animal husbandry.
Rubbing salt on the wounds, PDP thanked Pakistan, Hurriyat and the terrorists on the very first day for successful elections, demanding the remains of Afzal Guru the other day and releasing Masarat Alam afterwards. It didn’t end here as removal of Handwara army picket was done under pressure from PDP thereby encouraging separatists with subsequently Burhan Wani nightmarish turmoil period in which 95 civilians, 2 policemen lost their lives with more than 4000 security personnel injured in stone pelting which can be described as the worst period of the valley for over two decades, lynching and killings of local army men or policemen were rampant, Rasana episode to communalise situation in Jammu division as well are the other highlights of PDP-BJP alliance. Every project allotted to Jammu Division was stalled on one pretext or another with BJP silently watching the proceedings as mute spectator. Enjoying power for three years finally when nothing worked even after rijigging its ministers , portfolios, Speaker, Deputy CM, State Party President BJP decided one day enough is enough and pulled out of coalition with almost all the election promises unfulfilled and cited that as the reason to end the alliance again in the name of Jammu empowerment.
But public is smart enough as the results of recent Municipal elections point out where BJP’s performance was good in Jammu district only out of 10 from whole Jammu division despite the fact that both NC and PDP had boycotted the elections. Public resentment is visible as BJP could win only 212 seats out of 520 seats from Jammu Division and 92 of them are from Jammu district alone and remaining 120 in all from 9 other districts. It’s a separate story that almost after one month of elections it’s still trying to woo independents to get hold of MCs. With almost all projects allotted to Jammu division be it AIIMS, Ring Road, Metro, River Front, Smart City , Mubarak Mandi Heritage are still in incubation period only without a single stone laying of any of these projects BJP is self patting for only announcements but mere verbal assurances can never be achievements.
Game of politics is on, so is realignment of politicians also; independent MLA Pawan Gupta of Udhampur joining hands with BJP, Congress Councillors joining BJP in Kathua and there are murmurs of some big Congress leaders are ready to jump the line. In Kathua two more parallel alternatives in the shape of Ch Lal Singh with ‘Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan’ and Ankur Sharma of ‘Ikk Jutt Jammu’ have emerged and the resultant confusion among voters which party to go along has benefitted BJP right now in MC elections but once entire opposition jumps into fray collectively it will be difficult for BJP to save its Jammu region stronghold. One thing is clear if given an alternative effective leadership public is definitely going to cross over. With absolute majority in the parliament it was a life time opportunity to take corrective actions to give justice to Jammu and Ladakh but the party with a difference chose the other way and one can say frankly, “Thank you BJP for working so hard to ditch the patriotic people of Jammu and Ladakh.”


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