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J&K: Post Article 370 Revocation, BJP Holds First Rally in Lal Chowk, Targets 50+ Seats

Anees Zargar |
“Hogwash”, say Opposition leaders, ask “why close down shops and a school in city centre if situation is “normal”, as BJP claims”.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters hold party flags and National flags during the first-ever Tiranga Bike rally flagged off by BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh from Ghanta Ghar, Lal Chowk

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters hold party flags and National flags during the first-ever Tiranga Bike rally flagged off by BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh from Ghanta Ghar, Lal Chowk. Image Courtesy: ANI

Srinagar: After revocation of Article 370 and amid strong protests from Opposition parties to the “biased” delimitation exercise, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday held its first “pre-poll” rally amid heavy security in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area, claiming that it would form the government in the newly formed Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir by winning over 50 seats.

Incidentally, the delimitation panel report has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Among the various objections, political parties in J&K feel that the Jammu region (43) has got more seats in relation to its population compared with Kashmir Valley (47).

Read also: ‘Bound to Disempower Kashmiris’, say Parties After Delimitation Panel Submits Report

Monday’s rally was organised amid heavy security presence and heightened surveillance with roads leading to the clock tower sealed by the authorities. Most of the shops and a school in the vicinity remained closed.

Addressing the rally, state BJP President Ravinder Raina, who also paid tribute to civilians and policemen killed in the recent ‘targeted killings’, said:

 “The national flag is our identity and it belongs to everyone irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Many officers have also been killed for this tricolour.”

The rally, a first such event by a political party since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A in August 2019, was attended by many BJP functionaries including BJP national general secretary and prabhari J&K Tarun Chugh, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha national president and Lok Sabha Tejasvi Surya and J&K party general secretary Sunil Sharma.

Chugh flagged off over 200 bikers who are expected to travel to Kargil War Memorial to mark the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas on July 26.

Calling it a “historic” day, Surya said the party had been working continuously for the “unity and integrity” of Jammu and Kashmir, recalling the “commitment” to Kashmir shown by BJP’s “first leader” Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and “current leader” Narendra Modi.

Listing what BJP thinks are the “virtues” of abrogating Article 370 (that gave special status to the state of J&K), Surya claimed: “Article 370 was not only a constitutional barrier for full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. It was also a cultural and psychological barrier which did not allow us to complete the constitutional mission of Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat”.  

The BJP leaders targeted the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party leadership accusing them of “fuelling violence” in the region.

“The two families of Abdullahs and Muftis have failed to serve the people in the last 70 years and have made J&K the terrorism capital while the PM Modi made it tourism and progress capital,” Chugh claimed, adding that “the three families (Abdullahs, Muftis and Nehrus) have been rejected by the people now.”

Notably, BJP’s rally was organised near the same spot where former Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru addressed the people of the erstwhile state in 1947 and promised to hold a plebiscite as a means to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Monday’s rally is being seen as BJP’s first big push to initiate kick-off its campaign for the Assembly elections, which many believe will be held in November or early next year.

The regional political parties, however, termed BJP’s rally as “hogwash” aimed to project a false reality of situation on the ground.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) general secretary Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura lashed out at BJP for holding the rally after blocking the roads in the vicinity.

“Roads leading to Ghanta Ghar, Lal Chowk have been blocked, shops shut and a school (Tyndale Biscoe & Mallinson) in the vicinity too has been shut on a Monday just so that a political party can showcase their nationalism. The claims of change and normalcy post 2019 stand exposed,” Lone said.

Like Lone, National Conference leader and spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar told NewsClick that there was no need to close down shops and school in the city centre if the situation was “normal” as claimed by the BJP.

“They held the rally by turning the entire vicinity into a garrison. But, I was not even allowed to hold even a small meeting within a security enclosure a few days back. That should tell you about the state of affairs and claims of the BJP,” Dar said.

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