For quite some time the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has not been feeling comfortable in Jammu’s urban as well as rural sector. Most of the BJP cadre are passionately nationalists and dedicated, but the discrepancy lies in the lack of towering leadership. The divided and divisive upper crest of the organization sends misleading signals to grassroots workers. The party does not grow and does not catch on an initiative.
The party’s central leadership gave the state wing the freedom of managing its affairs as it deemed fit. That is the democratic approach to which the BJP High Command has always stuck. But the sensitivity of J&K, its chequered history of pre and post-independence period and particularly the terrorist phenomenon through which the state has been grappling since 1989-90, all put together demand that important policy matters and crucial administrative decisions have perforce to be taken in unison. In other words, it means that some amount of functional freedom or even decision-making option may necessitate partial curtailment.
In the previous election, BJP had won 25 assembly seats, the maximum number of seats captured by the BJP in the electoral history of the state. People of the Jammu region pinned great hopes on this prospect. The BJP High Command, in its haste to be in the government in one way or the other, coalesced with PDP led by Mufti Saeed and after his death by his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. Kashmir watchers, pro or anti-Indian opinion makers one and all were surprised by this disastrous decision. With no trust in the local leadership’s advisory or consultative acumen, the central leadership of BJP committed a Himalayan blunder whose consequences can be understood from what our security mechanism is facing today. By our over-politicized psyche, I am afraid; we are stretching the patience of our jawans too far.
Inexperienced and almost raw in dealing with the smart Kashmir Valley political hawks and their complex political maneuvering, the Jammu region BJP legislators including its small segment of the Council of Ministers had no idea of how the PDP Chief Minister and her hawkish ministerial team would take them inconsequential rather non-descript stakeholders in the power-sharing mechanism of the coalition government. Their imbecility was pitiable and their servility inexplicable. Not to speak of the Jammu region, they were not allowed even the space to put a streetlight in their residential complexes. All expectations of ushering in a new era of development in the Jammu region gradually dimmed and finally disappeared. The Jammu-based legislators remained confined to their quarters and the coffee house. The irony is that at a point in time when the Deputy Chief Minister fell from favour and was going to be replaced by the BJP High Command, he begged the chief minister to intervene and save his skin.
Jammu BJP was in shambles. Everybody began complaining that BJP did nothing for Jammu. Disgruntlement against the local BJP chapter was rampant and people would not spare even the central government. How, after all, could they mete out such a scurvy treatment to Jammu when our enemy was spreading its tentacles clandestinely in the vulnerable and sensitive borders of the state. PDP was busy cultivating Jamat-e-Islami cadre to fortify its constituency and the National Conference (NC) was lamenting the loss of dynastic power. The state BJP was a house divided against it. Whatever little or big developmental work was done during the past five years was done by Dr Jitendra Singh minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in his constituency through his effort and dedication as the MP.
This situation could not go on for too long especially when the agenda for delimitation of constituencies was vigorously pursued; to be followed by elections to the assembly. This time BJP senior echelons have shown that they take the Jammu political chessboard very seriously. A decision that has far reaching implications for Jammu’s status and significance on the political chessboard of Jammu & Kashmir has been taken at the right time. This could perhaps mean ushering in a new era of giving the Jammu region its rightful place in the political contest of the State.
Devendra Rana, the provincial president of National Conference (NC) along with Mr Salathia, senior NC leader former minister and about a dozen top ranking NC activists of Jammu have resigned from the National Conference and joined BJP. Mr Rana has been a staunch NC leader with a good following in Jammu though most of the Jammuites wondered why he towed the anti-BJP-led NDA government. Nobody believed it could be his conviction. His departure from the NC (National Conference) and immediate attachment to BJP indicates that the shift has been meticulously planned for quite some time and that at the end of the day an understanding was reached. What that understanding could be is not known as yet but given the stature, experience and the circumstantial take of things, one can presume that he is placed at a key position wherefrom he can purge the BJP of its rot, give it a clear and definite roadmap after due consultation with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister and party echelons.
Devendra Singh Rana, we hope, understands that a crown of thorns, and not of pearls, has been placed on his head. A huge and very complicated task awaits him. The Jammu BJP needs metamorphosis if it wants to play any historic role. This is the time when that role has to be initiated. Jammu BJP cannot and will not function like a divided house. The new structure of Jammu BJP under construction has to understand its responsibility to the nation. The epicentre of J&K politics and eco-hub has to shift to Jammu. It has to become a sprawling model of the north-Indian industrial hub, a co-terminus of cross-Himalayan connectivity grid, a tourist destination of unique human and natural synthesization.
The new political structure has to evolve with a vision of Jammu catering to the needs of the other two regions namely Kashmir and Ladakh also. Trade and commerce is the vital connecting link among them which is bound to receive a big boost once the Jammu-Baramulla 4-lane road and rail link are established by 2022. Jammu line will be extended to Rajouri–Poonch–Mendhar and Baramulla terminal will serve Rafiabad, Kupwara and Lolab Valley rail link one day. This rail and road connectivity will immensely enhance the commercial, social and political importance of Jammu and will also contribute to the rapid growth of the economy of the region. The emerging Jammu leadership has to have a vision and must come out of the cocoon. Why should not the terrorist moles and subversive dens in Jammu get decimated? Why should the border towns of Samba, Kathua etc. become the entrepot for jihadists from across the border? Why should Jammu’s security be jeopardized for undisclosed reasons? The problems of Jammu have to be resolved by the people of Jammu and the people have to understand who is best qualified to represent their aspirations.