Stage set for PM Modi’s first visit to J&K since August 2019

As the Union Territory waits for restoration of Statehood, PM will speak on National Panchayati Raj Day in Jammu

April 20, 2022 07:49 pm | Updated April 21, 2022 09:31 am IST - SRINAGAR

Security personnel with metal detectors inspect the grounds, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, at Palli Panchayat in Samba district, on April 19, 2022.

Security personnel with metal detectors inspect the grounds, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, at Palli Panchayat in Samba district, on April 19, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

All eyes are on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Jammu & Kashmir on April 24, his first tour in the over two-and-a-half years after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre decided to end the erstwhile State’s special constitutional status under Articles 370 and 35(A) and split it into two Union Territories, on August 5, 2019.

On the occasion of the National Panchayati Raj Day, Mr. Modi will address grassroots representatives in Jammu. They were elected in November-December 2020, when panchayat elections were held after 15 months.

In a speech on August 15, 2019, Mr. Modi had promised to return Statehood “at an appropriate time” and hold elections in J&K, which has remained under Central rule since June 2018.

J&K’s regional parties will be keen to see if the Prime Minister’s address, expected to be attended by around one lakh people, will hint at the continuation of his engagement with local political players, a move initiated during an all-party meeting held on June 24, 2021 in Delhi. 

A senior National Conference (NC) leader said Mr. Modi had talked about reducing “ dil ki doori” (distance between hearts) and “ Dilli ki doori” (distance from Delhi) during the much-publicised the all-party meet last year “but no headway has been made since then”. “Whether he will try to address the growing gulf between hearts and the distance from Delhi will be something that will interest us. We have little hopes from the visit though,” the NC leader said.

The PM’s visit is also coming at a time when the Jammu & Kashmir Delimitation Commission has almost completed its exercise to carve out seven additional Assembly segments in J&K, increasing the Assembly’s strength to 90 seats. This sets the stage for Mr. Modi to blow the bugle for the much-awaited polls and set a timeline to address the demand for the return of Statehood to J&K. There has been constant international pressure on India, including from the United States, “to restore democratic processes in J&K”.  

Official sources said the PM’s speech will focus on the achievements of the Lieutenant-Governor’s (L-G) administration after August 5, 2019, especially investments attracted to the troubled region from local as well as overseas players, including investors from the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Mr. Modi is expected to meet investors from the U.A.E., the first foreign country to have shown the intent to invest about ₹3,000 crore in the Union Territory in multiple development projects.  

L-G Manoj Sinha has said the Prime Minister will lead J&K into “a new era of development” by presiding over the ground-breaking ceremony for industrial development proposals to the tune of ₹38,082 crore in the presence of eminent industrialists.  Mr. Modi will also be inaugurating multiple power projects and laying the foundation stone for five expressways, besides officially throwing open the Banihal-Qazigund tunnel. He will also showcase Palli village as the country’s first panchayat to become carbon neutral, fully powered by solar energy, with all its records digitised and having full coverage to the benefits of all Government of India welfare schemes. 

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