Amit Shah’s Kashmir visit focuses on uptick in voter turnout, strategy to keep regional parties at bay

Home Minister is said to have directed party cadre to mobilise support for those candidates who have the potential to defeat nominees of NC and PDP

Updated - May 18, 2024 07:55 am IST

Published - May 18, 2024 04:32 am IST - SRINAGAR

Union Home Minister Amit Shah. File

Union Home Minister Amit Shah. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah wound up his two-day Kashmir visit on Friday.

During the trip, he discussed the recent healthy voter turnout in the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat and sought feedback on the party’s preparations for the upcoming elections in the Anantnag, Baramulla seats, as well as for the Assembly polls scheduled later this year in J&K.

Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti alleged that local Pahari officers were being “coerced by Mr. Shah to support the BJP’s proxy parties in Kashmir”. The BJP has not fielded candidates in any of the three Lok Sabha seats in the Kashmir Valley.

Mr. Shah, who arrived here on Thursday evening, left for New Delhi on Friday morning. “It was an apolitical visit by the Home Minister. However, it was discussed [during his meetings] that the voting witnessed on May 13 in Srinagar was heartening. It showed that the people of Kashmir have reposed faith in Parliament. The Opposition parties described the abrogation of Article 370 as a wrong move and even rejected the Supreme Court judgment in this regard. However, the voter turnout shows that the people have accepted it and showed faith in Parliament that abrogated it,” BJP general secretary Sunil Sharma said.

He said the Home Minister also reviewed the measures to “further upscale the voting turnout in the Baramulla and Anantnag Lok Sabha seats”. “He (Mr. Shah) put thrust on encouraging people to come out and vote in upcoming phases,” Mr. Sharma said.

Sources said Mr. Shah gave directions to the party to galvanise support in favour of those candidates with potential to defeat the nominees of the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Mr. Shah addressed the upset party workers who were in favour of fielding candidates in the Lok Sabha election in Kashmir. He asked them “to start preparations for the Assembly election”, which is due before September this year as per the Supreme Court order.

Various delegations meet Shah

“A Pahari delegation met the Home Minister. The community, which fought against the Congress and the NC for their demands, expressed gratitude for granting it the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The community will come out and cast their vote and take a decision on their own wisdom. Will they vote for those who opposed their ST status?” Mr. Sharma said.

A delegation of local Sikhs also met the Home Minister. The Sikhs, sources said, demanded “a special employment package”. The delegation also demanded ST status for Sikhs living in Kashmir.

Senior BJP leaders, including Darakshan Andrabi, Hina Bhat, Sofi Yousuf, Altaf Thakur, Dr. G.M. Mir, Ali Muhammad and Bilal Parray met the Home Minister. BJP national general secretary Tarun Chug was also present.

The Home Minister also sought a report on the upcoming Amarnath Yatra from local officials, sources said. 

Don’t interfere in poll process: Mehbooba 

Meanwhile, former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti urged the Home Minister “to refrain from interfering in the ongoing electoral process”.

“The elections in J&K should be conducted with the same fairness and integrity as in other regions of India. Pre-poll rigging should be avoided, besides intimidating the electorate and officers involved in the poll process,” Ms. Mufti said.

Ms. Mufti said she had received reports that the Home Minister had called a meeting of Pahari officers and “warned that if they do not support the People’s Conference in Baramulla and the Apni Party in the Anantnag-Rajouri seat, the outcome will be troublesome”.

“I want to request those officers who come from the Pahari belt that you are courageous people. For God’s sake, do not add to the torment of the already troubled people of J&K. Please remain steadfast and neutral,” Ms. Mufti said.

She warned against “pre-poll rigging”. “The rigging of the 1987 elections undermined public trust in the democratic process. Any repeat of such manipulation could have disastrous consequences similar to the violence and turmoil that followed the 1987 elections,” Ms. Mufti said.

She alleged that the BJP’s proxy parties were using “coercion, threats, and financial incentives” to influence the election outcomes”.

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