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BJP’s Pahari Outreach

Amit Shah’s recent visit to the UT in the first week of October 2022 sounded the poll bugle for the party’s campaign in the region.  The Home Minister made several announcements clearly targeted at both development and politics as he laid the foundation stone for 240 development projects of about Rs 2,000 crore in Srinagar.  […]

Amit Shah
Amit Shah

Amit Shah’s recent visit to the UT in the first week of October 2022 sounded the poll bugle for the party’s campaign in the region. 

The Home Minister made several announcements clearly targeted at both development and politics as he laid the foundation stone for 240 development projects of about Rs 2,000 crore in Srinagar. 

The visit was replete with mentions of the central government’s efforts to bring terrorism under control, reform the economy of the UT, and push for a greater role of tourism in the region’s growth and development. 

The visit’s highlight, however, was Shah’s announcement to grant ST status to the economically well-off Pahari community. 

The move reflects the changing politico-social contour of UT and the party’s attempts to find a more solid foothold in the state, especially the Kashmir region, which has eluded it election after election. 

The Pahari community is politically decisive in several constituencies of the UT, and will be central to the BJP’s desire to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir on its own.  Year after year, the BJP’s electoral performance in the erstwhile state was concentrated in the Jammu region, also evident from the last Assembly election. After the elections gave a divided assembly, BJP, the second-largest party had to rely on PDP, which was three seats behind but has dominance in Kashmir-based seats, to form a coalition in the then state. The support of the Gujjar, Bakarwal, and Hill or Pahari communities can help the party open its account in Kashmir in the next elections.

In September 2022, the BJP government nominated Ghulam Ali Khatana, a Gujjar leader, to the Rajya Sabha, another attempt to attract Kashmir-based communities. 

According to political observers, Baramulla and Srinagar were chosen as the venues to kickstart the BJP’s campaign in the UT to emphasise the party’s focus on the Kashmir region. 

Organising a rally in Baramulla, the party’s largely apolitical outreach attempt, marked by no party flags, clear emphasis on the benefits the UT has received after the removal of Article 370, and reiterating the government and the Prime Minister’s focus on the development of the state point towards the party’s intentions to set the stage for development politics, sidelining regional identity. 

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