Aiming to showcase a secular face, the BJP’s youth wing held its first ever convention in Kashmir on Sunday with slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’ to start the proceedings, and repeated references through the day to former prime minister A B Vajpayee’s “doctrine of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”.
Addressing a gathering of around 1,000 men and women at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium in Srinagar, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Poonam Mahajan described the occasion as “historic”.
“When I was told that this is going to be the BJP youth wing’s first ever convention in Kashmir, I was a bit nervous. I have come from Bollywood city. After seeing you here in such large numbers, I can only repeat a Bollywood dialogue. ‘This is just a trailer, friends, the complete superhit movie is yet to come’,” Mahajan, BJP MP from Mumbai, said.
Mahajan was welcomed at the venue with slogans of “Allahu Akbar” and “BJP zindabad”. A few minutes later, came the call for prayer from a mosque nearby, which was quickly followed by an announcement: “Sab khamosh ho jayein, azaan ho rahi hai (Everyone be silent, there is a call for prayer).”
Later, referring to Vajpayee, Mahajan said, “Vajpayeeji said Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat. We have to move forward with Insaniyat. Neighbours can’t be changed but we want peace.”
Speaking at the event, senior BJP leader and J&K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, too, praised Vajpayee. “I have had three-four chances to go to Pakistan under Track II (diplomacy). Once, a Pakistani asked me how I felt, and I said it was if I am in Jammu and Kashmir. He asked if I was from India and I said I am the state president of Vajpayee’s party in Jammu and Kashmir. He stood up, hugged me and said the world doesn’t have a politician like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He (Vajpayee) stretched the hand of friendship even in an atmosphere like Kargil. He said that friends can be changed but neighbours can’t,” said Singh.
The BJP leader further said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was only following Vajpayee by inviting former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif for his oath-taking ceremony. “He (Modi) wanted to send a message that the BJP is not what people think… we want peace, we want friendship,” he said.
The first-time event, however, was not without its share of drama with two youth leaders and their supporters engaging in a verbal duel, accusing each other of “financial and moral corruption”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Adil Ahmad, a Class 10 student from Pampore, said, “I have been with the BJP youth wing for the last few months. I joined them because I was told they would help me financially. Today, out district president asked us to come to Srinagar. We were provided vehicles by the party to come here.”