Political pitching hots up, breaks chill in Pir Panchal, Chenab Valley

3 ex-CMs criss-crossing Jammu sub-regions to renew ‘connect’; reclaim ‘territories’
Omar found fault with “double-speak policy of Congress on Article 370” and vowed yet again to “struggle for it alone relentlessly.”
Omar found fault with “double-speak policy of Congress on Article 370” and vowed yet again to “struggle for it alone relentlessly.”Special arrangement

Jammu: The winter has set in across J&K. However, this chill is being broken by unusual political pitching in hilly, treacherous areas of Chenab Valley and equally difficult twin border districts of Pir Panchal.

As the pace of high-profile activities and shrill noises is hotting up there, the vibrations can be experienced across the political spectrum in the Union Territory.

It just cannot be a coincidence that three former Chief Ministers are taking turns rather competing with each other to renew their ‘connect’ with the people of mountainous districts of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban and remote border districts of Rajouri and Poonch.

In terms of seismology, both these sub-regions of Jammu region come under high damage risk zones. Interestingly, they are equally vulnerable to political tremors given their curious demographic, cultural and of course geographical fault-lines.

Hence, ignored in terms of development for decades; forgotten otherwise in usual political humdrum; these areas suddenly become important when election is flavour of the season, past trends suggest.

It is this vulnerability which empowers these sub-regions to become the fulcrum of the power during every election season. However, this time there are certain other curious patterns also emerging from these mountainous and border areas.

PDP president and the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was an “early riser”, who started her week-long tour to Pir Panchal belt on October 10 and next in her itinerary was of course

Chenab Valley for almost an equal duration. So in a way, she does deserve the credit to set the tone for political war-cry revolving around Article 370 also as vociferously as on statehood restoration in the past two months or so, even in Jammu province.

National Conference vice president and ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday wound up his 7-day tour to Chenab valley with a well-attended rally at Ramban.

As a parting shot, he served everything on the platter which formed the crux of his ‘refurbished political line’ he stuck to, while ‘reconnecting’ with this side of the tunnel. He slammed the Centre for creating a false narrative of “All is well” in J&K while turning Kashmir into a “Garrison town” and stalling all developmental projects initiated during previous regimes.

Omar questioned two sets of laws in force – one for J&K and another for Ladakh in terms of security for land and jobs for locals, while reaffirming his resolve to ‘win back’ special status for J&K.

Congress and PDP were two other punching bags with him vis-a-vis “war-cry on Article 370.”

“Crossed from Jammu province back to Kashmir via the new tunnel. Sadly we left the blue sky behind in Jammu as well. It was an amazing 7 days on the road,” he tweeted with a video as left Chenab valley.

Yet another former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, after briefly criss-crossing Chenab Valley during his earlier tour in mid November, is presently camping in Pir Panchal to revamp ties with the people of his political constituency there.

Despite the frayed nerves within the party for earning ire of the Congress leadership as G-23 head and related reasons, Azad is trying hard to maintain thin balance to salvage his image as a ‘national leader’ as well as a ‘popular regional leader.’ No wonder, his take on the sensitive issue of Article 370 in his rallies even while taking on local political adversaries (friends-turned-foes), is measured. Restraint is the key-word, he is strictly adhering to, even when he responded to Omar for his offensive against him on Article 370.

Congress leader has reserved UT dispensation (but not its head i.e., the Lieutenant Governor), central government as his main targets and “restoration of statehood to get back J&K’s identity” with “security of land, job”, development, administrative inertia as his planks in rallies.

In his Surankote rally today, Azad used the occasion to reaffirm his loyalty towards Congress while tragetting UT government for snatching jobs and launching a “spree of terminations” instead of providing employment. “We need to silence the voices of hatred and those whipping up passions on religious grounds,” was his another caution aiming at mainly BJP and to some extent PDP.

“Back in #Badarwah after a long gap & it’s good to be back. It’s the penultimate day of my tour of the region where I’ve met & interacted with a cross section of @JKNC_,” earlier on Wednesday noon Omar had tweeted.

Later, in a public rally in Bhaderwah, Omar had delivered his next punch of ongoing ‘slug-fest’ with Azad on “restoration of Article 370.”

Omar found fault with “double-speak policy of Congress on Article 370” and vowed yet again to “struggle for it alone relentlessly.”

One cannot lose sight of NC vice president holding PDP supremo and late Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed responsible for abrogation of Article 370 and present “dismal state of affairs in J&K” by declining NC’s offer to form alliance government following fractured mandate of 2014.

However did anyone wonder why Omar targetted mainly Azad, besides BJP and not focusing much on his party’s bête-noire Peoples Democratic Party’s president?

What’s the need for that, it’s an open secret that PDP is still in its nascent stage here in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts.

Azad belongs to Doda district. Thus as a son of the soil, he still enjoys a good command over the political block across Chenab valley, even though much water has flown down Chenab since 2014.

He (Azad) responded from Poonch. “I only raised a voice in the Parliament against the abrogation of Article 370, thus taking away the identity of J&K. Mine has been a consistent voice over there (in the Parliament) against this move. However I believe we should focus on securing our land and jobs first. Article 370 was a constitutional amendment and it can be challenged in the court of law. Matter is sub-judice, hence there’s no use speaking on it,” Azad averred.

Since, BJP is a common enemy for all three political parties and their no discourse can be completed without slamming it (and it was hammered in their addresses without fail) so it can be ignored for a while for the paucity of space.

Hurly-burly, witnessed in the past two months, indicates that the mainstream political parties have caught a whiff of (prospective) elections. It seems, they are a bit convinced that the capricious duo of Modi-Shah, after March-April, may yet again spring a surprise by removing all blockades in the way of elections and thus catching them unawares.

Though the government has not spelt out anything officially yet it has dropped enough hints through “invisible high-profiled sources” that the Delimitation Commission is not likely to get any extension after its March 6, 2022 deadline for submission of its report.

This does explain a bit the reason behind vigorous movement of politicians and flurry of activities there in these otherwise ‘away from sight’ sub-regions of Jammu province.

Yet three former Chief Ministers viz., Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah, however, had their own rationale behind the “pro-active approach” with a renewed spotlight on these areas.

“See, we had a lot to catch up with the developments here; build broken bridges with the people and re-establish contact which we could not do in the past two years or so. We’re here to make up for lost time on account of post August 5, 2019 restrictions earlier and later due to COVID pandemic,” was the general line of argument adopted by the trio to elucidate the vigour, with which they were focussing on these areas in the recent past.

Prior to 2014, Chenab valley sub-region used to be exclusive bastions of NC and Congress. So was Pir Panchal yet they had to share political constituencies with the PDP since its inception. However, the post-2014 scenario saw saffron surge in Chenab valley and to some extent in Pir Panchal also.

Now the old players are all out in the fray yet again to reclaim their constituencies which they had to concede to saffron surge. How things will unfold in the days to come, one cannot predict.

However, the fence-sitters as well as the inhabitants of these sub-regions, at the moment, are enjoying “high-profiled visits” aimed at whipping up passions as a precursor to electoral politics.

This will gain further momentum and then it will be “more the merrier.”

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