BY QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, Sep 26 (IANS) The issues of Article 370, Ram temple, economic slowdown and farmers suicides are set to dominate the election campaign in Maharashtra for the upcoming Assembly polls.
While the BJP, riding high on the abolition of special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370, is going to make the issue its main poll plank, the Opposition Congress-NCP alliance will be raking up the job crisis due to economic slowdown and farmers’ issues to corner the government.
Maharashtra and Haryana are the first two states going to polls after the Article 370 was revoked from Jammu and Kashmir and the BJP hopes to test the public sentiments on it in the October 21 elections.
Its ally, Shiv Sena, also has wholeheartedly supported Article 370 revocation, but also speaks of another issue close to its Hindutva heart — the Ram temple.
Making BJP’s intentions clear was its President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who raised the Article 370 issue here last Sunday when he kick-started the poll campaign.
Terming the August 6 decision as “historic”, Shah said while the BJP had struggled for “one-nation, one-Prime Minister and one-Constitution”, the Congress was indulging in politicizing an issue involving the nationalism.
“The Congress views it as political issue, but we consider this as nationalism,” he asserted.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had shown “courage and grit” in scrapping the special status of J&K in the very first session of Parliament after his government was formed for the second successive term.
“I want to inform Rahul Gandhi that our three generations have struggled to strike down Article 370. So, it is not some political issue like you may believe. Keeping it alive was a political issue for the Congress, but for the BJP it was a matter of the country’s unity and integrity, a dream made true by PM Modi,” Shah declared.
Earlier last week, Modi also raised the issue of Kashmir at a rally in Nashik in the context of ending of its special status and said the Valley needs to be made a “paradise again”.
The Sena is harping on the Ram temple issue as a major poll plank, amid its push for early resolution of the decades-old dispute, particularly after abrogation of Article 370 from J&K.
The Shiv Sena raised this issue during the Lok Sabha elections too, before which its chief Uddhav Thackeray paid a high-profile visit to Ayodhya in December last year.
The Opposition Congress-NCP alliance, on the other hand, has lined up state-related issues, reminding both Modi and Shah that the “elections are being held in Maharashtra, not in Jammu and Kashmir” and hence Article 370 cannot be the focal point of political discourse.
“What about the growing unemployment in the state? The CM (Devendra Fadnavis) must reveal the number of factories that have shut down in the state due to the slowdown in recent years. Over 16,000 farmers have committed suicide and continue to suffer despite the loan waiver announced two years ago,” thundered Pawar at his poll rallies in Marathwada last week.
The two allies are also focusing on an alleged fraud in the construction of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s monument, coming up in the Arabian Sea, off Mumbai.
Citing “official documents” which claim “serious irregularities”, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant and NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik have alleged a Rs.1,300 crore scam and flouting of the guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission in awarding the project tender by the state government.
“They have played politics in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on whose name they came to power. We demand action in the matter and shall seek recourse legal,” Malik said.
However, the ruling BJP has dismissed the allegations, saying the Congress-NCP have no moral right to talk about it as they failed to build it during their 15-year rule.
“Now, as the project is finally seeing the light of the day with all necessary permissions in place, they are playing politics in this manner,” PWD Minister and State BJP President Chandrakant Patil said.
It may be recalled that the Larsen & Toubro had made a successful bid of Rs.3,826 for the project in 2017, and later, it had slashed the cost to around Rs.2,500 crore.
The opposition has also other questions on the issue of flood relief and drought in different parts of Maharashtra, law and order situation, the growing attacks on minorities and Dalits, etc, said Sawant.
BY QUAID NAJMI