Congress Plans New Kashmir Strategy To Counter Article 370 'threat'

15 June 2014
Daily Mail Online
Amit Agnohotri

New Delhi: Apprehending that the BJP may play up the controversy over abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, ahead of the Assembly elections, the Congress has started framing a strategy to reach out to people in the Jammu region. Congress sources said the party has apprehensions that the BJP may try to polarize the Hindu-majority Jammu region over the abrogation of Article 370 just as it whipped up a controversy related to the construction of temporary structures for pilgrims of the annual Amarnath Yatra ahead of the 2008 Assembly elections. The Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are due by January next year. Keeping in mind weather conditions, the election may be held by the end of this year. Soon after the new government took over, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh had created a controversy by saying the administration was working on the abrogation of Article 370 and talking to various stakeholders. Although Singh later claimed he was misquoted, the BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had said the issue should be debated. Sources said Singh, who represents Udhampur constituency in the Lok Sabha, was inducted into the Council of Ministers with an eye on the assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress, which runs a coalition government with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir, said it was ready for the challenge. 'They (BJP) have polarised earlier. They may now polarise on different lines. But there is no chance they will succeed,' Congress state unit chief Saifuddin Soz told Mail Today. During the Lok Sabha polls in which both the Congress and the NC failed to get even a single seat in the state, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had alleged there was a clandestine understanding between the BJP and the PDP, who won three seats each. When asked if the Lok Sabha poll trend could have an impact on the assembly elections, Soz said the issues are different for the two polls. 'We will explain our stand to the people. Our ministers have addressed the concerns of the Jammu region,' the PCC chief said. The party sources claimed thousands of RSS workers have reached Jammu region to build up support for the BJP. Any attempt to polarise the Jammu region would have a similar effect on the Kashmir Valley and could create tensions between the two regions of the troubled border state, besides providing an opportunity to separatist elements, they added.