Updated: June 8, 2015 11:52:57 am
The setting up of an AIIMS in Srinagar threatens to polarise Jammu and Kashmir in the same way as the 2002 Amarnath agitation. Residents of Jammu allege AIIMS was taken away to the Valley by the PDP, which, however, insists the institute came to the Valley with the Agenda for Alliance it signed with the BJP to form the government.
JAMMU OR KASHMIR?
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in the Budget the setting up of an AIIMS in Jammu and Kashmir. Finance Ministry officials clarified it was meant for Jammu, and Dr Jitendra Singh, MoS in the PMO and the BJP MP from Udhampur, delivered a speech of thanks. However, after being sworn in as Chief Minister on March 1, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed released the Agenda for Alliance, which said that the Valley would get AIIMS, and Jammu an IIT and IIM.
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The controversy has come in handy for the opposition Congress and National Conference, who see a chance to embarrass Mufti’s PDP-BJP coalition government in the state. There is, however, a significant division here: among the opposition parties, only leaders from Jammu have been raking up the AIIMS issue, while their colleagues from the Valley have been silent. The reason is obvious: Congress and NC leaders from Kashmir know that their joining the cause of Jammu would hurt them in the Valley.
THE BJP STAND
The BJP knows that escalation of the matter could potentially erode its base in Jammu, which gave it the highest-ever 25 seats in the assembly polls. Senior state BJP leaders, including ministers in the Mufti government, insist that Jammu too would get an AIIMS. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently promised in Jammu that he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And Jitendra Singh has said that the first AIIMS in the state would be in Jammu. BJP leaders have been saying that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had given an AIIMS to Jammu in 2003, and then health minister Sushma Swaraj had laid its foundation stone, but successive Congress governments at the Centre and the state had converted it into a super-specialty hospital.
In the absence of any formal announcement by the Centre, the assurances of BJP leaders are not getting traction. The protest coordination committee, comprising political, social, religious and trade organisations, has organised two complete shutdowns against the shifting of AIIMS to Valley, and has now announced an intensification of its campaign in the coming days.
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