Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jammu & Kashmir State on 3rd February 2019 and set an agenda for the Government and his party for the next six months. In fact, he also set an agenda for his adversaries too in the State, as well, as a consequence of his path-breaking visit to the State. There are a lot of responses and reactions in the media in Jammu and Kashmir regions after his departure from Kashmir valley the same day. These responses should not be surprising but what is amazing is the way he conducted the whole programme of the visit and how he left an indelible mark on the psyche of both, his followers and his opponents not only in the state but throughout the world.
It was not a usual visit of a national leader or the Prime Minister to a State at a normal time. Undoubtedly, everything was sensitively set for the Prime Minister. All eyes were focused on the visit not only because it was the J&K State that Modi Ji was visiting but the timing and the circumstances were also deeply connected with the future course of action in the State.
Prime Minister took the initiative to visit Ladakh region as his first priority. It sent an important message to all that the most neglected region of the state is on Modi’s mind though it has negligible electoral role in the Parliamentary elections. Establishment of the University of Ladakh in Leh is the most epoch making event and its inauguration by Modi is a great feeler. Announcement of Rupees Twelve thousand crore projects for the proposed Division does reflect the priority of Modi, undoubtedly.
His Jammu visit thereafter broke and created records. Going by the Party analysts, the mammoth gathering at the AIIMS ground consisted of 2.5 lakh people and the most conservative reporting called it a gathering of one lakh of people. Both ways, it speaks volumes about Modi charisma. A host of prophets of doom in the Jammu region, who day in and day out call BJP as a party that has lost ‘ground support’ need to learn lessons of politics afresh. It was first the ULB elections, then the Panchayat elections and now the huge unprecedented crowd that are enough to speak for many things. Modi was indeed happy to see the AIIMS ground full of a sea of humanity in a place like Samba and it served his national political concerns very well. He sent the message that his charisma in Ahmedabad in the west, Durgapur in the east followed by Jammu in the extreme north is not only intact but has the strength to envelope his new priority grounds in the south as well.
The whole show at AIIMS ground sent a clear signal that Jammu is on the PM’s agenda and that he was well connected with the issues and people of the region. He needs no tutor on the subject and has the acumen to get connected with a chaste Dogri with the people as well. He acknowledged the fact that he did not speak about the displaced Kashmiri Pandits for the last three years but their pain was in his heart. He made it clear too that the Alliance Government in the state did not allow things to emerge in favour of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits. But he took care to convey that the Kashmiri Pandits form an integral part of his political agenda regarding the Jammu & Kashmir state. Inaugurating Rupees Thirty five crore projects including the AIIMS, Power projects, Highways and Bridges was a developmental plank that had a multiple purpose. However, the Devika plan is path-breaking and has the potential to recreate a river that has been on the last priority for all the previous regimes in the state, followed by a facelift of the Udhampur town in the near future.
Jammu is electorally very important for the BJP and the visit of Modi to the Jammu region coupled with his frontal speech raking up Jammu concerns comprising the aspirations of various sections of the society was undoubtedly an astute politics. There is no denying the fact that Modi wave has a great value for the Jammu region, electorally speaking, but the credit to the cadres cannot be taken away from them for the great and historic gathering that all of them managed at the venue. Discipline, good management, parking of vehicles, stage management of the mega event, public address system and the JOSH were both inspiring and appealing. Prime Minister marked everything and he referred to many aspects of them before, during and after his well followed speech on the spot. Modi indeed made history at Samba.
Kashmir visit was the last phase of the PM’s schedule in the J&K State. Modi, seems, has learnt a lot of lessons regarding Kashmir over the past five years as a good, bright and futuristic student of history, politics, international affairs and governance. He is keen observer, learner and follower of his chaste subjects and that was quite visible during his visit to the Valley this time. His body language, overtures, speech, Dal lake adventure, side talks, dress and direct challenge spoke of a changed and rejuvenated Modi in context of Kashmir scenario. Indeed, he was not the same Modi who paid a visit to Kashmir five years ago.
He exhibited a great sense of courage, acumen, patriotism, determination and leadership while he crossed the Dal Lake in an open motorboat with the Tricolour in front. It was a clear message internally and externally too. It simply meant that he was in total control both politically as well as strategically. His dress during the event resembled of a war hero who would come back from the frontiers among his people restoring among them the pride of victory for all the times to come. It was a swaying event in Kashmir wherein he conveyed frankly and freely that he was determined to finish terrorism and would restore peace and tranquility in the region. His reference to ‘breaking the backbone of terrorism’ in J&K has multiple targets. While it refers to Pakistan and the terrorists directly, it also refers to the elements that provide social, political and religious support to the terrorism in Kashmir. The statement is no doubt direct in approach and speaks volumes about the thinking of the Prime Minister on Kashmir.
The adventure of Dal Lake must have sent shivers down the spine of the security set up while it would have been made to confront with the idea in the first place. The Prime Minister’s options had no alternative and the security apparatus made it happen. This is a glaring example of political will assisted by the security and strategic support with a purpose to set the records straight for all and sundry. It was a day when the so-called Kashmir activists from Pakistan and a few from Europe were thinking to organise UN Kashmir resolution day on February 5. The Prime Minister’s Kashmir event sent a missile-message well before their ‘non-event’ from the centre of the Kashmir valley that Kashmir was, is and will remain an integral part of India. The people present in the SKICC on the banks of Dal Lake were Kashmiri Muslims and the elected Mayor of the Srinagar City was seated in front of all of them. PM’s assertion that the people who took up illegal guns will have to face the consequences was also an apt message on the occasion.
The developmental agenda consisting of the inauguration of AIIMS in Kashmir needs to be looked from the context that the valley is already having an AIIMS-like institution at Soura called SKIMS. The Government of India has shown great magnanimity by allowing one more medical institution of the stature for a 12,000 square kms land-locked division with a population of odd 65 lakhs people. This speaks about the priorities of the Government of India headed by a leader like Narendra Modi. His interactive video-conferencing in the programme at Valley ranged a volume of subjects making the impact of shut-down outside the complex a poor non-event. The reactions of Hurriyat the next day were but natural, however, these have little impact on the political scenario of the State.
The visit of PM Modi can be termed as Historic indeed since it demolished some old myths, created records of the sorts and wrote a new chapter in the political history of Jammu & Kashmir. It asserted that BJP has an unfinished agenda in Jammu & Kashmir and the electoral bargains form an integral part of the political agenda. The visit also confirmed the fact that BJP has got a new and dynamic leadership that means business and everyone needs to know and understands that. PM Modi has, thus, set a formal agenda for all concerned in the J&K State and made obligatory for them either to support it or to oppose it. He has given a feel of his leadership far and beyond for the BJP organization to pick up.
Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo