Srinagar: BJP national president Amit Shah held wide-ranging talks with its leadership in Jammu and Kashmir and other relevant people including prominent citizens and civil society leaders in Jammu on Saturday.
The exercise would continue on Sunday before Shah who is on a two-day visit of Jammu leaves for the next leg of his 95-day countrywide tour during which he will strategise on ways to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election, with focus on clinching 120 seats where the party had lost in 2014.
The BJP president had had separate meetings with the party legislators and members of the Jammu High Court Bar Association, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jammu and prominent citizens to get feedback on the prevailing political situation and various other important issues. He also closeted with the 5-member core group of the BJP’s state unit and was scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with some party ministers in the PDP-BJP government.
These meetings took place in the backdrop of unending turbulence in the Kashmir Valley, the situation prevailing in the border-belt of Jammu region, the issue of permanent settlement of erstwhile West Pakistan refugees and tensions set off by the demand of local groups that Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslim refugees living in shacks in and around the winter capital be banished.
Mr. Shah is reported to have assured the State party leadership that all these issues and those which remain unsettled or crept up recently with ally PDP would be resolved as quickly as possible but in a non-confrontational way keeping in view interests of the party and the country.
The issues on which the allies have publicly differed with each other and created real or false fissures in their relations included the ways of dealing with the protests and stone-pelting incidents in the Valley. It was said that the BJP favours stern action against ‘stone-pelters’ whereas PDP wants applying ‘healing touch’ in the Valley to win over its alienated youth. The PDP leadership had reportedly conveyed to its BJP counterparts that ‘controversial’ statements from BJP camp like a minister’s asking for treating the stone-pelting youth “only with bullets” were making matters worse for it in Valley.
It is also an open secret now that the BJP wants equal share in proposed reshuffle in the ministry and change of some portfolios. The PDP had accused BJP of violating ‘coalition dharma’ and resented the way the latter behaved during a recently held election of new members to the State Legislative Council. The PDP had expressed resentment over the BJP’s taking three seats in MLC polls despite commitment of sharing two each. The BJP denied the charge of “manipulation” in the election and said that an independent lawmaker from Ladakh who was supporting the PDP eventually voted in favour of a BJP candidate on his own.
It was amid reports of ‘differences’ between coalition partners over various issues that BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav held a meeting with PDP leader and State’s finance minister, Haseeb A. Drabu in Jammu on April 21. Drabu had acted as the PDP’s chief negotiator over the government formation with the BJP whereas Madhav is known as the man behind meticulously stitching dream alliance between ideologically divergent parties in 2015. However, Madhav had on his return to Delhi strongly denied there was any discord between the coalition partners.
The sources in the BJP, however, said that some of its leaders and also party rank and file are adamant to get “equal and suitable” share in the government and want the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti be pressurized to go in for early expansion/ reshuffle of her Council of Ministers. The ministerial aspirants waiting to get a berth include the BJPs’ State unit president Sat Sharma and Speaker of the Assembly Kavinder Gupta. On the other hand, there are complaints of corruption and no-performance against a couple of existing ministers from the BJP and the party leadership is under tremendous pressure from within to show them the door and replace them with ‘deserving’ people. If Gupta is made a minister, the PDP may ask for picking up the next Speaker from its team.
Shah earlier arrived to a rousing reception by the party leaders and workers including minister and legislators in Jammu. The activists of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) took out a bike rally and escorted him to the State Guest House where he held meetings with party men and others. The streets were thronged with BJP supporters and party flags were waved as Shah’s convoy passed through the streets after he landed at the airport.
Madhav and MP Avinash Rai Khanna are accompanied the party president. The party sources said that Shah issued “certain guidelines” and discussed how the party organisation would be “strengthened”. They said that he told those who met him that Kashmir Valley like rest of the State is an integral part of the country and that the BJP is with its people. He assured them that PDP-BJP government is focusing on the development of all the three regions of the State, while Centre was aware of the Kashmir tensions and has framed strategy to deal with it.
During his yatra, Shah is particularly focusing on states like West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana and Kerala. The BJP had won just 4 Lok Sabha seats out of the 102 in these states in the 2014 elections. His voyage will end by September 25, coinciding with the 101th birth anniversary of Jana Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.