Modi's Strategy to Bring Jammu and Kashmir into Mainstream
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose not to celebrate his Diwali at home but spend the day with the jawans of the Indian armed forces at the world’s highest war theatre in Siachin and the flood victims of the border state of Jammu and Kashmir. This is fraught with political significance that goes beyond the BJP’s electoral imperatives in a state that is due to vote for a new assembly in December. Having given the armed forces full operational freedom to respond to the escalation of ceasefire violations by Pakistan forces, Modi wants to give a clear message that the trust gap between the country’s civilian authority and the armed forces that lurked during the UPA dispensation no longer exists now.
The move to share the day with the victims of the recent floods which had resulted in over 300 deaths and displacement of millions of people in the Kashmir valley goes beyond the realm of symbolism as the Prime Minister has offered a road map for reconstruction of the devastated region. After announcing a relief package of `1,000 crore earlier, Modi offered another `570 crore for rebuilding homes in Kashmir and `175 crore for six major hospitals worst hit by floods. Ahead of the visit, an inter-ministerial team was despatched to the state to assess the damage caused by the floods, and the announcements made by him demonstrate the Union government’s total commitment toward rehabilitation of the flood victims. At a time when there is near total disenchantment with the state government, NDA government’s handling of the September floods has come in for praise even from its rivals.
The fact that this was Modi’s fourth visit to Jammu & Kashmir shows that after rejecting the myth that separatists represent public opinion in that state, the Centre has decided to engage directly with the people through a constructive discourse of inclusive development. This represents a welcome break from the past and can be effective in bringing J and K into the mainstream of the country’s growth story.