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Modi visit would change destiny of Kashmiris: Mufti

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By Arka Mondal

Despite the escalating media hype around the slated Kashmir rally of PM Modi, traders and civil society activists in the valley have not pinned many hopes on the visit. Modi government’s failure to release the flood package (for the devastating September 2014 floods) even after over a year has irked many in the state.

Though PDP has failed to justify its decision of joining hands with the BJP, it sounded positive regarding the visit. Claiming the visit to be akin to ‘Vajpayesque approach’, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that Modi’s visit would change the destiny of the people of Kashmir.

Though PDP and the BJP are, ideologically, poles apart, the PDP leaders are working to set the tone for the Modi rally. They testified that they wanted to rationalize their move of forging a partnership with the political major of India.

The party went to the extent of claiming that Modi might speak about a probable dialogue with arch rivals Pakistan from the podium of Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium. This comes at a time when Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani has proposed to hold a rally on the TRC Ground on the same day to thwart the BJP juggernaut in the Kashmir valley.

However, there are hints that Modi might hold dialogues with separatist outfits as BJP cognizes the importance of Kashmir in making India a dominant force in the region.

The pro-PDP faction, however, expects a lot from the visit. In a bid to pacify them, Modi is expected to reach out to all stakeholders; declare a proper rehabilitation package of at least Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for each person of the business community; a tax waiver for at least 10 years; and cash compensation so that businessmen are able to recover their losses due to the floods.

Government sources revealed that Modi would announce a development package worth Rs 1 lakh crore which would include Rs 72,000 crore for new projects and for relief and rehabilitation works in the flood-ravaged state.

The Kashmiris, in general, are not much enthused when Indian premiers visit their state. And there are obvious reasons for that. Developmental projects have always been ignored in the region. When former PM Rajiv Gandhi declared a Rs 1000 crore package aid, Rs 992 crore were meant for National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and a further Rs 6 crore were spent by the then chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, on converting the city forest into a golf course, leaving just Rs 2 crore for different developmental projects. Similarly, out of the Rs 24,000 crore package announced by Manmohan Singh, Rs 18,000 crore was just meant for NHPC.

Kashmiris are familiar with the fate of such aids. The mediocre aid of Rs 3800 for those whose houses were damaged by the flood speaks volumes of how the people have been ignored but have been utilised to satiate political agendas.

The people of the valley have come out of the hangover of the PM’s last visit last year where he claimed that he ‘felt the pain’ of the people of Kashmir and claimed their dreams as well.

Though Modi is likely to announce a package that focuses on resurrecting the infrastructure lost in the 2014 floods with focus on roads, bridges, power, and tourism projects, it will depend on how much of the package would be meant for infrastructure development and how much of it would reach the flood-affected people.

Only time will tell whether Modi in his address from Sher-e-Kashmir stadium on November 7 declares big package and calls upon the separatists and Pakistan like Atal Bihari Vajpayee did during his iconic visit to Kashmir, or it becomes just another visit by another PM.

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India, elections
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the 'Global Mobility Summit' in New Delhi, India, VOA

India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

India, elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Continues To Stay Mum On The #MeToo Movement. Wikimedia Commons

“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

India,India, elections
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents as he accuses Narendra Modi’s government of buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault at a highly inflated price, in New Delhi, India. VOA

The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

India, elections
Modi Appeals For A Regional Front Against Terrorism, flickr

Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Announces Easier Access to Credit

Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)