Defence Minister’s Visit

UNION Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said Jammu and Kashmir would always be an integral part of India and the parts of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan have been illegally occupied by Pakistan. He expressed India’s resolve to capture Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir as well. “If Amarnath is on this side, how can Maa Sharda remain on the other,” the defence minister said on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas in Jammu. He also described Article 370 as “an artificial barrier that stands removed” saying its abrogation had brought a new dawn of hope to the dreams and aspirations of the people, especially the youth. The Union Minister said India had become a strong and confident nation, which was well-equipped to protect its sovereignty.

Later interacting with the J&K BJP leaders at the party office, the minister asked them to get into election mode.  The party’s J&K president Ravinder Raina echoed a similar sentiment, saying the party was ready to face the polls whenever they were going to be announced.

Earlier, visiting J&K in June to attend a function to mark 200 years of the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh, the first Dogra ruler of the princely state of J&K, Singh had also raised the hopes of elections this year. He gave a timeframe saying the electoral exercise may also commence by the end of this year.

J&K has not had an elected government since June 2018 when Governor’s rule was imposed after the PDP-led coalition government lost its majority following the withdrawal of support by the BJP. The last three years have witnessed a drastic political makeover of the state-turned-union territory, so much so that in many aspects, the current J&K bears little resemblance to what it was pre-August 2019.

There is hope that the elections would lead to the restoration of statehood. The centre has already made it clear that statehood would be granted only after an elected government is formed, staying short of giving a timeframe. So, this could take a longer time than expected. New Delhi has indicated it would see the performance and behaviour of the elected government before it decides to restore statehood. It is expected that a government led or influenced by the BJP could pave the way for a faster return to statehood than a non-BJP government. But, for now, this is all in the future. All we can hope for now is that the elections are announced earlier than later.

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