BJP poll manifesto silent on special status for Kashmir (Lead)

November 14th, 2008 - 10:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyJammu, Nov 14 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Friday released its manifesto for Jammu and Kashmir elections beginning Monday, but the document, which talks tough on dealing with terrorism, made no mention of Article 370 of the Indian constitution that grants special status to the state.The 16-point manifesto focuses mostly on the alleged discrimination against Hindu-majority Jammu region at the hands of Jammu and Kashmir’s dominantly Muslim rulers.

But it made no reference to Article 370 that entitles Jammu and Kashmir to have its own citizenship laws, forbids non-permanent residents from buying immovable assets, gaining jobs or admission in professional institutions.

The BJP, whose influence is confined to Jammu region, is contesting 64 seats.

It had only one legislator in the dissolved assembly - Jugal Kishore Sharma, who had defeated Ajatshatru Singh, grandson of Maharaja Hari Singh, in 2002 by 73 votes. The party has fielded the same candidate from Nagrota constituency in Jammu district against the scion of the royal family.

The BJP’s best performance was in 1996 when it had won eight seats. It is known as a party of two and a half districts of the Hindu dominated areas in Jammu region.

The manifesto was released at a press conference by BJP state president Ashok Khajuria and his two predecessors Chaman Lal Gupta and Nirmal Singh.

The manifesto touches mostly on local issues of the state and talks tough on dealing with terrorism.

“All the successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have been soft on terrorism. If BJP comes to power, we will sternly deal with terrorists of all hues,” Khajuria said.

Khajuria sought to justify the omission of Article 370 saying: “It’s immaterial whether there is a mention of Article 370’s abolition or not. It is an agenda in our hearts.”

The BJP has for decades campaigned against Article 370, saying only its abolition would firmly tie Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of India.

The manifesto, which steers away from national issues including that of the Ram Janmabhoomi, talks of reducing unemployment and improving the living conditions of Kashmiri Pandit migrants.

“This time we are confident of forming the government. The people have seen all other parties and they have come to know how they have been cheated by the Congress, PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) and National Conference,” said senior party leader Chaman Lal Gupta.

In the manifesto, the BJP has promised to do away with regional imbalances in the state, appoint provincial councils and grant citizenship rights to refugees from Pakistan.

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