Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the Valley and his underlining of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship welfare schemes have given fresh impetus to the Centre’s preparations for Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
With the Election Commission expected to complete the preparatory process by November-end, there is “growing optimism” that elections could be held in the Union Territory by next summer, official sources said Thursday.
The preparatory process for the elections will be over as soon as the scrutiny of the vote list is completed. Revision of the list began after the Delimitation Commission submitted its report in May.
The new voter list is expected to include those who migrated from PoK and erstwhile West Pakistan as well as those who had left Kashmir during the troubled years. The Centre also announced that a person residing in J&K for at least 15 years will be eligible to be a domicile of the Union Territory.
The large turnout and the response of the crowd at Shah’s public rally Wednesday at the Showkat Ali Stadium in Baramulla, the BJP believes, are indicators of the “normalised” atmosphere in the region. This has come five months after the PM’s visit to Samba where he said that the Valley’s youth “will never face the kind of suffering that their parents and grandparents faced.”
Sources in the BJP said there have been “indicators” that the situation on the ground has changed and a conducive atmosphere is “getting prepared” for holding elections.
Party leaders said welfare schemes have “worked well” – they pointed to the loud cheers from women at the Baramulla rally when Shah referred to schemes like the Ujjwala Yojana.
With the Home Minister ruling out talks with Pakistan given its continuing support to terrorism directed at India, especially J&K, BJP sources said the party would not have ties with any party that calls for dialogue with Islamabad or has links with Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, a banned organisation, or the Hurriyat.
Party leaders also said the BJP would have no truck with the Democratic Azad Party, launched recently by former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The two main political parties in Kashmir – National Conference and the PDP with which the BJP had an alliance in the past and ran a coalition government – have been urging the government to hold talks with Pakistan for restoring peace and normalcy in Kashmir.
“Why should we talk to Pakistan when it promotes terrorism in our land? Why should we talk to someone else to bring peace to our land? When we say Kashmir is an integral part of India, why should we involve others to bring peace there? Our government’s stand is that we will root out militancy to bring normalcy there,” a senior BJP leader said.