J&K local body polls- BJP strikes a chord with the Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley

The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is making progress in the urban local body polls in Kashmir Valley by winning 60 municipal wards unopposed, mainly in volatile South Kashmir. In Shopian district alone, all Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley candidates fielded by the BJP have been elected. The BJP has done a commendable feat in the local body polls by giving tickets to as many as 36 Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley; it is a first of its kind happening in the state since the Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of the valley in the early 90s.

After coming to power though, the BJP kept the momentum high on its assurances to Kashmiri Pandits. On June 9, 2014, in a joint address to Parliament on the Modi government’s five-year agenda, then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee himself reiterated the promise, “Special efforts will be made to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits of Kashmir Valley return to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood.” The President’s utterance generated great anticipation of a homecoming for the exiled community, in spite of the fact that the situation on ground-level didn’t seem very conducive, given Kashmir’s youth joining terrorist organisations and an increasingly vocal opposition to the return of the Pandits by the separatist groups, many of whom had brutally forced the community out. The BJP was able to win unopposed by fielding candidates for 13 wards, the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party meanwhile have decided to boycott the local body elections.

The political assurances made to Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley regarding their return and rehabilitation kept emerging from time to time. While campaigning for the J&K state legislative assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a rally in Samba, Jammu, on December 8, 2014, vociferously avowed to rehabilitate all kinds of refugees emerging since India’s Partition in 1947.
This comes after most regional parties, including the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), decided to boycott the polls accusing the Centre of not clarifying its stand on Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special rights and privileges to the residents of the state. “National Conference and the PDP have committed a blunder by not being part of the democratic exercise. If due to their blunder something good is happening and new faces are coming up in Kashmir, it is an achievement,” says Arun Gupta, BJP state spokesman.

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