Amit Shah’s J&K visit assumes \'great significance\'

SRINAGAR: Security has been beefed up further across Jammu and Kashmir for Home Minister Amit Shah's three-day visit which began on Monday night. Multi-layered security arrangements have been put in place particularly in frontier Rajouri and Baramulla districts where Shah is scheduled to address public rallies on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Analysts say that the Home Minister’s visit assumes ‘great significance’ as it comes at a time when various political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are gearing up for campaigning for the J&K Assembly elections.

Some analysts say that Shah’s public rallies will kick off the BJP’s campaign for these elections. But the BJP on Monday reiterated that these would be ‘routine’ yet significant rallies for large numbers of people are expected to participate in these. “These will be mega rallies but will have nothing to do with the Assembly polls for which no dates have been announced by the Election Commission of India yet, a party leader said.

Ravinder Raina, president of the J&K unit of the BJP, told reporters here on Monday that the decision of holding Assembly polls rests with the ECI but the party is ready to join the fray as and when these are held. “The BJP has started its preparations for elections and whenever ECI decides to hold elections here, our party will be ready,” he said.

Nevertheless, some J&K watchers said that Shah’s visit is undoubtedly an exercise to build up party support for the Assembly elections as and when these are held. The BJP expects to win a maximum number of seats in the 90-member Assembly and form a government on its own for the first time in the history of J&K.

Shah may also announce reservations for J&K’s Kashmir’s estimated one million Pahari speaking population during this visit which gives the BJP hope of the community’s support. The Gujjars and some other Tribal communities of J&K who were listed as Scheduled Tribes in 1991 are opposing grant of such a status and other similar benefits to the Paharis with the argument that it will dilute the entire ST status. Over the past few weeks, they have held protests at some places in the Jammu region.

However, the BJP sources said that Shah could make an announcement on grant of ST status to Paharis as well at his rally in Rajouri which has a sizable Pahari population. Recently, a delegation of senior Pahari community leaders had met the Home Minister and some other central leaders to plead their case.

BJP does not believe granting of SC status to the Paharis will create any major problems for it in terms of obtaining the support of the Gujjars and Bakarwals who comprise about 15 percent of the population of J&K and can influence directly and indirectly about 12 assembly constituencies. Recently, the BJP nominated a prominent Gujjar Ghulam Ali Khatana to the Rajya Sabha. Earlier, the Delimitation Commission, for the first time in the history of J&K, reserved nine Assembly seats for the Scheduled Tribes, out of which, six are in Jammu region.

The commission has, apart from identifying seven others as Scheduled Castes (SC) constituencies, recommended two nominated seats-one woman- for the Kashmiri Pandit community with voting rights in the House on the pattern of the Puducherry Assembly. The delimitation commission has also recommended nominated members from West Pakistan refugees, who have already been given voting rights in the Assembly. Before the abrogation of Article 370, these refugees could vote for the Lok Sabha only.

All these measures are being seen as BJP’s strategy of entering new zones- in J&K the backward sections among Muslims- after moving beyond traditional vote banks.

The Home Minister will during his visit also hold interaction meetings with the members of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) and review the security situation and work undergoing on various development projects in the Union Territory, the official sources said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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