SRINAGAR: Four months after forming a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the BJP is facing a first major test in its home-turf in Jammu on setting up of an AIIMS-like institute in the region.
A shutdown was observed in Jammu on Friday in response to a call given by AIIMS Coordination Committee (ACC) comprising traders and lawyers bodies from Jammu and the Opposition parties, including the National Conference, Congress and other Jammu-based parties.
The ACC is spearheading the campaign for setting up of an AIIMS-like health institute in Jammu on the pattern of one sanctioned to Kashmir by the Central Government earlier this year.
The ACC has called for a three-day shutdown in Jammu, winter capital of the state, beginning on Friday.
The ACC supporters clashed with BJP workers outside the party headquarters in Jammu. Police had to fire tear gas shells and resort to baton charge to restore normalcy.
The ACC went ahead with its shutdown call despite a statement by Union Health Minister J P Nadda on Thursday that the Union Ministry of Health is setting up “AIIMS-like facilities” in Jammu and Kashmir.
The AIIMS Coordination Committee chairman and president of the High Court Bar Association, Jammu, Abhinav Sharma rejected Nadda’s statement and accused the BJP of betraying and cheating the people of the Jammu region.
“The BJP tried to mislead the people of Jammu through its misinformation campaign. It was yet another attempt by the party to hoodwink people of Jammu region on the issue,” he said.
The ACC is also demanding resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and Forest Minister Bali Bhagat, both BJP ministers, for not keeping their promise of getting AIIMS-like institute approved for Jammu.
Jammu, the stronghold of the BJP, is where the party fared well in the recently held Assembly and Parliamentary elections.
Observers see the agitation by ACC in Jammu as a jolt to the BJP and opine that it can hit saffron party’s popularity, vote-bank and growth in the region.
“The party has already been facing the heat in Jammu after it gave up its known stand on granting citizenship rights to West Pakistan refugees and agreed on the status quo on Article 370 for forming a coalition government with the PDP in the state,” a political observer said.
However, BJP spokesman Khalid Jehangir rejected the notion that it would affect popularity of the party.
“These kind of tactics are being used by the Opposition parties, including the National Conference and the Congress, because they are afraid and scared of the PDP-BJP coalition government ushering in new era of development in the state,” he said.