Looking to play up the Union government’s decision on revoking special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 in the campaign for the upcoming Assembly elections and bypolls, an overwhelming response to the campaign to create awareness on the move has forced the party to intensify it across the country.
The BJP had initially planned 35 major rallies – primarily in state capitals and big cities – and 370 smaller ones as part of its outreach programme on the abrogation of special status to J&K. The number of such meetings has now been increased to nearly 700, according to a top party leader.
In Maharashtra, which goes to Vidhan Sabha polls on October 21, the number of such meetings scheduled initially was 18. The party is now expected to hold at least 45 meets on the issue.
Y Satya Kumar, party national secretary and co-convener of these outreach programmes, said: “People are appreciating this decision (on J&K), which is evident from the overwhelming response to these meetings in every state.”
According to Satya Kumar, the number of participants is going up in each state – “much higher than expected”. This, he said, is the case in not only BJP-governed states but also in states such as Odisha, where the Biju Janata Dal is in power.
Special status abrogation a big election issue
The demand to increase the number of programmes for outreach campaign on Articles 370 and 35A comes in the backdrop of party president Amit Shah’s announcement that the BJP will fight the upcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra as a referendum on the Centre’s decision to scrap special status to J&K. The BJP cadre have been asked to go all households and explain that the move is meant to “integrate Kashmir into India.” BJP leaders assess that the move will give them a clear edge over the Opposition, already in disarray, in both Maharashtra and Haryana.
In Puducherry, for instance, the initial plan was to have just one meeting, but now the BJP state unit is preparing for four such meetings. Similarly, the number is expected to increase from 21 scheduled initially to 200 in Karnataka; in Gujarat, another BJP-ruled state, it will be 182 meetings against 19 planned earlier.
The party had earlier scheduled two programmes on the issue in Andaman and Nicobar Islands; it will now hold 15 such meets.
The awareness programmes began on September 3 and are scheduled to be concluded on September 30, when BJP working president J P Nadda is expected to address the media on the success of the programme. Union ministers, chief ministers of different NDA-governed states, deputy CMs and senior party leaders are addressing these meetings and programmes.
Nadda himself has addressed rallies in Bengaluru and Pune, and is scheduled to address a rally each in Delhi on Wednesday, Kolkata on September 27, and in Chandigarh on September 29.
As many as 127 such meetings were held across the country until Sunday, Satya Kumar said.
The BJP also is reaching out to 2,000 prominent personalities from the fields of films, sports and academia, among others, to create awareness on Articles 370 and 35A. The party has already approached several Padma award winners, cricketers Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Olympian Milkha Singh for this.
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