New Delhi: The nation should come together to build a “new Jammu and Kashmir" that is free of violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a public meeting in Nashik on Thursday, kicking off the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) campaign for the Maharashtra assembly election and unveiling a likely major campaign theme for the ruling party in the forthcoming elections in other states too.
The public meeting was the first by Modi in Maharashtra after the party’s thumping victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and 35-A, which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir, will not just end violence in the erstwhile state but also put a stop to corruption, said Modi.
“The decision will meet the aspirations of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. We have always said that Kashmir is ours, but the time has come to say that we will build a new Kashmir. The entire country has to come together and work for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh—every village has to be developed," he said.
Modi accused Opposition leaders of making statements that were being used by the enemies of the country to malign India in the international arena.
“I can understand the confusion of the Congress, but why is a senior leader and experienced leader like (Nationalist Congress Party chief and Maharashtra veteran) Sharad Pawar supporting Pakistan? Everyone in the country and the world knows where terror factories are located," the Prime Minister said.
The ending of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has gathered political heat ahead of the assembly elections, though a section of Congress leaders have backed the Union government on the move.
On Thursday, Modi also blamed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which had the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as a partner, for compromising the security of the country. Modi said UPA had delayed procurement of bulletproof vests for soldiers. The BJP government has not only expedited the process, but has also made provisions for its manufacture in the country.
On the Ayodhya issue, Modi asked, “Why are some people making comments on the Ram Mandir? We should have trust in the Supreme Court, the Constitution of India, and the judicial system of the country."
The start of the assembly election campaign comes at a time when the BJP and its alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, are struggling to reach an understanding on seat-sharing. The two sides have decided to contest an equal number of seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, but a section of the BJP is keen to contest on more.
The alliance won 41 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2019 elections. The two sides contested the 2014 assembly elections separately, but formed the government together with a comfortable majority, with the BJP winning 122 seats and the Sena 63.
The assembly elections are important for the BJP because this is the first time the party has its own chief minister in Maharashtra and is the bigger partner in the coalition. As such, the elections will be a test for the ruling party on governance and its development model with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis leading the campaign for the BJP.
Assembly elections are also due in Haryana alongside Maharashtra, and in Delhi by February.