‘Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A is Cementing Force of BJP’, Says Ashok Koul

“Gap in maintaining Security Forced BJP to End Alliance with PDP”

Kashmir Magazine

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State General Secretary, Ashok Koul has been pivotal in the emergence of the party as an important and vibrant front in Jammu and Kashmir. In an exclusive interview with Hamid Rather for Kashmir Magazine, he talks about BJPs agenda of development, Good Governance and maintaining security of the state and country as well to make way towards securing majority in the parliamentary and upcoming Assembly elections. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

How Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is viewing the present political atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir? What agenda BJP has to attract voters in upcoming Assembly elections?

BJP in 2014 made an alliance with PDP when tough political atmosphere was hovering over Jammu and Kashmir. BJP having fundamental objectives of working towards development, good governance and resolving the decades old turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir extended its support to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to realize these objectives. To certain extent we succeeded in bringing the development and good governance in the state but there remained a wide gap in maintaining the security of the state and nation as whole. In Kashmir there is persistent turmoil in certain regions which then leaps the entire valley into its cradle. Our priority was to normalize the situations in every nook and corner of the state which will lead to peace in the valley and eventually to development. We will again come before the people with these agendas as there is still a lot to do in those areas.

Mr. Koul Sahab you are a resident of Jammu and Kashmir. Why are you still talking of abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A? BJP has included the scraping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in their Manifesto? Can’t you defend the special status of the state inside the party at least?

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from its inception in 1991 when its premiere organisation was called Jana Sangh has clearly mentioned in its manifestos from time to time that Article 370 should be abrogated. BJP believes that Article 35A has been added to the constitution through an unconstitutional method and this article must be scrapped. It is not something that BJP is saying now but it has been associated with the BJP since its formation. The first president of BJP, Dr. Shyma Prasad Mukherjee was martyred in Kashmir for the cause of Jammu and Kashmir. BJP have offered so many sacrifices for this larger objective of fuller integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country and how come another party can suggest that BJP should give up the idea of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A.

Mr. Koul do you mean that Congress has mishandled the state of Jammu and Kashmir?

It is rife in the political circles that Jawaharlal Nehru has mishandled the state of Jammu and Kashmir as he intruded in the affairs himself. On the other when country was facing similar issues of Junagrah and Hyderabad and both were solved perennially by Sardar Patel. Because of the Nenru’s failure Jammu and Kashmir is still in turmoil and people of the state are unhappy and upset over the prevailing sad state of affairs.
BJP believed that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it can’t compromise on it on the basis of the political disturbance in the state. BJP wings in any part of the country have similar slogan, ‘jis Kashmir ko khoon say seecha who Kashmir hamara ha. Jo Kashmir hamara ha woh sarey ka sara hamara ha”.

From 2014 we have witnessed patterns of attacks on minorities around the country. Why minorities fear BJP and Sang Parivar?

This is a political game. Let me tell you a story so that you will understand it. Few days back some young men came to meet me and they narrated that Public Safety Act (PSA) has been slapped on one of their friends. They told me that they were first working for one regional political party and on whose directions they were pelting stones. When they joined a new party PSA was slapped on one of their friends on political directions. According to me all this fear mongering is created by political parties. BJP has always raised the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and now all the political parties are following the BJP footsteps. Now we are seeing Congress leaders going to temples to seek votes but BJP leaders have always been going to temples.

BJP has withdrawn its support to PDP. Mehbooba Mufti, PDP President maintained that she felt suffocated and decided to go away from BJP due to dissatisfaction on making Tutu Ground vacant, release of all political prisoners and handover of NHPC hydel power projects to the state. Is there any truthfulness in it?

No. These things were not mentioned in the Agenda of Alliance (AoA). But yes we were in consonance with PDP for the transfer of hydel power projects from NHPC to the state. But when the state is not competent enough to handle such big power projects it would be a disaster to transfer such mega projects to the state. Let me give you an example, an effort was made in this direction by the transfer of Baghlihar project to state but unfortunately it has reached to near destruction and ultimately state has transferred the power projects back to NHPC. We don’t want that every sector in the state should crumble and this power sector is the only sector which is still performing well. But yes once the state machinery is strengthened we will also push for the immediate transfer of these power projects to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Do you think that BJP high command has took an early decision of withdrawing its support to PDP in government formation as almost 3 years were still to go for the next elections? Do you think BJP betrayed people who have given the party mandate?

As I told you that BJP entered an alliance with PDP on three major objectives of securing development, good governance and security of the state as well the country. On the first two objectives BJP and PDP have worked in coherence to a large extent and achieved satisfactory result. But there remained a wide gap in maintaining the security of the state as well the country and on this count BJP high command parted away from PDP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jammu and Kashmir and gave 80 thousands crore development package for the development of the state. Almost 90 percent of which has been spent. We also wanted to be in the government as 50% of the ministers were from BJP. But when party high command decided the MLAs submitted and unanimously followed the party’s decision.

Do you think that after withdrawing your support from PDP in government formation, the security situation of the state has improved?

According to me after the Governor’s rule and later the President’s rule there has been a tremendous improvement in the security situation in the state. Modi Ji to a large extend has played a crucial role in improving the security situation in the state. But Modi Ji can’t handle this job single handedly and I appeal that people of Jammu and Kashmir should extend support to Modi Ji in his endeavours with respect to Kashmir.

Apprehensions are rife among the people of Jammu and Kashmir and other states that Modi Ji has not followed the footsteps of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had won Kashmiris hearts by insaniyat, kashmiriyat and jamhooriyat . What are your views on this?

Modi Ji did follow the footsteps of Atal Ji. On the swearing ceremony, Modi Ji has invited all the Prime Minister of the SAARC countries and former Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharief was also present. Recently, Nawaf Sharief in an interview said that during Tashkent meeting he told Modi Ji that his relative is being married and if Modi Ji he can join. Modi Ji landed in Lahore and made an informal visit to have good relations with the neighbor. Modi Ji has used all the levels that Atal Ji had used to make progress with the neighbours. But when he realized that the erring neighbour is not correcting its behaviour and the terror emanating on its soil is used to destabilize India he followed tough policy. After several coward attacks on India by Pakistan, Modi Ji felt the need of giving a befitting reply to the erring neighbour. When Modi Ji retaliated now we are seeing that the security situation has begun to improve.

Can you tell us about BJP’s performance in the Parliamentary elections in Jammu and Kashmir as well in the country as whole? Do you think BJP will get majority this time?

I have seen in three Parliamentary seats of Jammu, Udhampur and Leh, people are voting BJP in the name of Modi Ji and not the party candidates from the respective constituency. People were raising question on party candidates but not a single question on the leadership of Modi Ji has been traced. Similarly, same enthusiasm and response has been recorded throughout the country. We are hopeful of winning majority this time. I agree with what BJP President Amit Shah says that BJP will win larger number of seats this time than what BJP won in 2014. Though BJP has changed the candidate in Leh but I haven’t seen anywhere in Leh people saying that they will vote anti-Modi. Similar pattern is being found throughout the country.

Political parties have raised concerns over prolonged deferment in holding Assembly elections in the state. It is alleged that BJP is looking for Poll results at centre and if it again came to power then it will have ramifications over Assembly Poll results in the state. Do you agree?

Holding of elections is the mandate of elections commission of India. Elections commission has sent its delegations several times to assess the security situations and BJP has always voiced early elections in the state for the formation of popular government. Recently, when special election commission delegation held deliberations with security apparatus and people, nomads voiced their concerns that they constitute 30 lakh voters and elections should not be held until they return from the mountainous areas. This is a genuine concern and if elections are being deferred on this ground it is valid. The community has resented the demands of regional political parties of immediate Assembly polls.

Do you think that NC, PDP and Congress have made an invisible alliance to defeat BJP in the recently parliamentary elections?

I don’t see a particular political thinking and ideology in congress and I feel that a right man should not stick with congress and I have reasons for it. In Leh Congress has declared its official candidate but its own ex-MLA and political worker, Karbalahi has worked against the congress in the elections. Congress has taken no action and let the both political leaders do circus in the ground. In BJP we don’t have double standards. We have tried to accommodate Lal Singh Ji but he resented and we expelled him from the party. Congress has installed their candidates in Baramulla and Anantnag constituencies but in Srinagar Congress has submitted itself to make Farooq Adbdullah sahab happy. Similarly, NC has extended support to Congress in Jammu and Udhampur constituencies. That is why I am saying that congress has no political thinking and philosophy.
Wiqar Rasool, three times MLA from Banihal has recently disseminated a communal voice message asking people to come out and vote for congress as Kathua is voting heavily. Even after touching the communal strings only about 50 percent voting was observed in Banihal. This way congress is lacking a political thinking with which it remains aligned.

BJP has polarized the length and breadth of the country. BJP is seeking votes on religion and caste. Why are you resorting to such techniques to win people’s support?

BJP has not created polarization in the country but other political parties did that. Let me give you an example, in kalakot constituency, posters were pasted on buses and pamphlets were dropped in passenger vehicles reading don’t vote for BJP as it is a communal force and has anti-minority stance. Recently, PDP MLC from Kishtawar Firdous Tak sahab said that why they should vote for congress as the congressmen have killed Muslims in kishtewar and why to vote for BJP as it is anti-Muslim. When PDP has not declared a candidate there and extended support to congress what is the fun behind this anti-BJP approach. So BJP has not created polarization but regional political parties did create it.

In case of divided mandate in the upcoming Assembly polls, will you again move towards PDP for an alliance?

We will act on such things after Assembly poll results. In 2014, BJP entered in an alliance with PDP for development, good governance and security of the state and country as whole. We are hopeful we will do well in the upcoming Assembly polls.

There is wider resentment against BJP leaders in Jammu. Are you going to make any changes in the candidacy this time?

The election dates are yet to be announced. We will declare our candidates only the then. If there is need of certain changes we will definitely make the changes in candidates.

The withdrawal of security of political workers by Governor Satya Pal Malik has proved dangerous as one BJP worker was recently killed by unidentified gunmen in South Kashmir. Do you think the security should be reinstated to political workers?

Honorable Governor Satya Pal Malik has apprised media about this that he was misinformed about the security of the political workers which lead to the withdrawal of security of such workers. Malik sahab has also reinstated that the security of the political workers as there are peculiar challenges associated with the political workers in the fragile security situation in the state.

After Jamaat and JKLF ban, NIA raids on Hurriyat leaders have become the new norm from the central government to suppress the dissent and different political ideologies. Don’t you think it is further alienating Kashmiris from mainland India?

The illegal activities need to be stopped as they pose threat to the national security. We have found Hawala networks operating in the state which are sponsoring anti-national activities. Under such circumstances, NIA, ED and Jammu and Kashmir Police should take repressive steps to nab the culprits so that the anti-national activities will be stopped.

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan has batted for second term for Narendra Modi as he thinks that BJP is more sincere towards Kashmir resolution than Congress. How do you see it?

BJP is also looking to normalize the relations with its neighbours. If Pakistan has taken one step we will also take two steps. After designation of Masood Azhar as global terrorist Pakistan seems going in right track and if BJP returns to power again we will definitely retaliate the friendship with Pakistan provided Pakistan stops transporting terror to India. Modi Ji loves to walk together with the neighbours peacefully.