From UP, Rahul stirs J&K poll pot with ex-spy in shadow

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, January 3: Jammu and Kashmir will most likely go to the polls by middle of the next year. The J&K administration is on an overdrive to hard sell its governance plank to help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gain the foothold in the Kashmir valley. The National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are by all accounts on the defensive in J&K, and they seemingly need the crutches of a national party to beat the resurgent BJP in the Union Territory.

On Tuesday, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi sent out a loud message that his party is ready to play the hard political game in J&K. The ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, which was flagged off by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin is to conclude in Srinagar, J&K. Similar Yatra was taken out by the former BJP chief Murali Manohar Joshi, which was managed by Narendra Modi, in the 1990s when the saffron outfit had sought to build a workers’ base across the country, while riding on the nationalist plank. Joshi had unfurled the national flag at the Lal Chowk in Srinagar in a curfew like situation.

Former top spy of India AS Dulat, who had been a key aide of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, walked along with Gandhi when he led the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Uttar Pradesh. Dulat was the architect of Vajpayee’s Kashmir outreach with his ‘Insaniyat’ pitch. Vajpayee had sought to give a healing touch to the people of the valley with his assertion that he would go beyond the limits in the true spirit of ‘Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat’ to heal the wounds of the people.

Dulat had afterwards been engaged in Track II diplomacy with former Pakistani spies and diplomats to work for a breakthrough during the tenure of the UPA governments between 2004-2014 when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. Dulat is India’s most visible face in the Kashmir valley. In a coincidence, Farooq Abdullah, the maverick Kashmiri politician who has an enviable skill to be on the right side of the national politics most often, also joined Gandhi on Tuesday.

Congress by showcasing Abdullah and Dulat on the same day has seemingly stirred the poll pot in J&K. Former Congress man Ghulam Nabi Azad’s fledgling political outfit is imploding and by the time elections are held for the UT Assembly, he may be left stranded without a base and workers. That positions Congress well to provide the NC and the PDP the support to withstand the onslaught of the BJP, which is seen to be enjoying unprecedented support in Jammu and may benefit from the delimitation exercise and other measures taken following the abrogation of the enabling provisions of Article 370, which provide for reservation for the disadvantaged sections of the UT.

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