Unrelenting Hard-Line On Kashmir

In his second successive election rally in J&K, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued to champion a nationalist agenda and a hard-line on Kashmir.  One of the strongest pitch of his campaign for   the second term is the promise of executing the BJP’s long-standing ideological agenda on the state. This involves stiffening his stand against any demand for restoration of the state’s original special position under India’s constitution. So, the PM reiterated in Jammu his opposition to the  posts of the separate Prime Minister and the president for J&K as sought by National Conference leader Omar Abdullah. Not only that he also expressed himself strongly against the AFSPA dilution as promised by the Congress in its election manifesto. This shrill rhetoric on J&K has also been aggressively plied by other senior BJP leaders, making the state a distinct factor in Lok Sabha polls. Also, unlike the Congress and the other opposition parties, the BJP’s top leaders comprising PM Modi, Rajnath Singh and  Amit Shah – the party’s veritable triumvirate – have also visited J&K to deliver election speeches. 

The BJP is banking on hard-line approach to the state to mobilize votes in the rest of the country. And it may not be mistaken in this belief. Over the past five years, a tough policy on the state has found increasing resonance in the country. With the  BJP making national security its central poll plank following the Pulwama attack which killed 40 CRPF personnel and triggered skirmishes with Pakistan, the issues related to the state have moved to the centre-stage.

Congress  has stayed short of locking on to the issue as proactively, choosing rather to buck the BJP’s nationalist challenge and shift the battlefield to development issues where the saffron party is perceived to be on the defensive. Hence the minimum income guarantee scheme like Nyay and promises of measures to alleviate rural distress have supplanted the accent on ideology. On the contrary, the BJP in its manifesto has reiterated its  ideological position on the state. It has renewed its pledge to revoke Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution to play to its wider nationalist constituency. 

But there are lurking dangers of this approach that are not being paid much attention to in the heat of the election campaign. That is, a chest thumping approach to the state and using it as an instrument to mobilize votes only complicates the issue and pushes South Asia towards instability. One hopes that the BJP rethinks its hostile stance towards Kashmir and instead privileges an approach leading to reconciliation and the lasting peace in the troubled state.

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