Saffron BJP Goes Green In J&K: New Flavour In the Land of ‘Kesar’
What has made the BJP go “green” in Jammu and Kashmir?
From saffron, the BJP has gone green in this poll season in the restive Kashmir Valley. For the past several days, the BJP candidate for the Srinagar parliament seat, Khalid Jehangir, has been issuing advertisements to local dailies, and putting up hoardings across the city as part of the election campaign. But what has caught the attention of people is the green colour of these ads and posters, instead of BJP’s usual saffron.
‘How Saffron Has Been Greened’
Designed on a green background with white borders and white spaces in between, the colour of the BJP symbol, the lotus, has been changed from saffron to black and white in these ads, with the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a waist coat, and Jehangir’s picture opposite his.
Jehangir however, dismissed the use of the colour green as what people in Kashmir described as a politically thought-out move to woo voters. “There is nothing political about it. Green symbolises life and freshness. I love green… it isn’t anybody’s personal property,” he said.
“I don’t see colours through the prism of politics,” commented Jehangir whose poll slogan is ‘Khalid Hai Tou Solid Hai’.
According to him, at least 40 billboards, designed in green, have been erected across the central Kashmir constituency, spread over three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal, all in green. The BJP candidate confirmed that it was for the first time that the party has designed election ads and hoardings in green.
The use of ‘green’ even caught the attention of BJP’s political opponents. “In Kashmir the colours are changing and how! Such are the political colours of elections. How saffron has been greened! Or has the PDP left an indelible mark on the BJP palette?” tweeted former finance minister and ex-PDP leader Haseeb Drabu.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asked the BJP not to fool people with green, and instead, show its “true colours”.
“The saffron of the BJP turns green when it reaches Kashmir. I’m not sure whether the party truly believes it can fool voters when it makes a fool of itself like this. Why can’t they show their true colour while campaigning in the Valley?” tweeted Omar.
Mixing ‘Good Governance’ With ‘Religion’
Whether or not the use of the colour green – associated with Islam – was a political move, the BJP’s election campaigning in Kashmir is in sharp contrast to its electioneering across India. The right-wing party, which was, not so long ago, seen as “untouchable” in the Valley, has been trying hard to make inroads, mixing its agenda of development and good governance with religion.
Last week, Jehangir also visited the famous shrine of 6th century Sufi saint Sheikh Noor Din Wali in Charar-i-Sharief town of Budgam, to seek blessings. “I spent at least two hours at the shrine and sought blessings,” said Jehangir.
The other party candidates in Kashmir too have been mixing religion cautiously in their election campaigning in the Valley. When the BJP’s candidate for Anantnag seat, Sofi Yusuf, kick-started his poll campaign, he, too, visited a shrine in the district. “It is a matter of faith for me. Everything one does is not necessarily politics,” commented Yusuf, a former MLC, and founding member of the party in Kashmir.
He has been holding rallies and meetings in villages and peripheries of the districts, to garner support in the constituency which is spread over four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam, and has been seething with anger since the 2016 summer uprising, owing to frequent encounters and killings of militants.
These meetings often start with reciting Quranic verses and then the focus shifts to “family raj” of Abdullahs and Muftis and how the two political families “have deprived people of the fruit of democracy”.
A former policeman, Yusuf too said that during his long association with BJP since the mid 90s, the party has never used the green colour for electioneering or other purposes. “It has never happened,” he said.
Staying Away From Debate On Article 370
While the BJP at the Centre, and its ministers in the government, have been advocating the abolition of Article 35A and Article 370 – the two provisions in the Constitution of India which define J&K’s special status and identity – back in the Valley, these “core issues” of the BJP find no mention in the party’s poll campaign.
“We are here to tell the truth to people, that how political parties have over the years looted funds meant for their development,” said Jehangir, a former journalist.
In his poll manifesto, the BJP candidate has promised jobs for educated youth, multiplexes, insurance for all drivers, smart villages, shopping festivals and IPL-like tournaments, if voted in.
Tough Road Ahead For Jehangir
Contesting his maiden election, Jehangir is pitted against political heavyweight Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference president, and PDP’s Aga Syed Mohsin. He knows that the road ahead is tough. “I am not worried about the results but our mantra is politics based on good governance and development. We are not here to deceive people like the Abdullahs and Muftis who have projected Delhi as the enemy of Kashmiris, while they themselves have drawn all power from Delhi,” said Jehangir.
Over the years, the BJP has claimed that its support base has grown in Kashmir. The party claims it will do “much better” this election. Avinash Rai Khanna, BJP’s in-charge for J&K, said that in the 2014 parliamentary election, the party secured only 3,000 votes in Kashmir. The numbers grew to 50,000 in the (recent) Assembly election.
“Today we have more than 2 lakh members in the Valley. This speaks about the rise of our party in the region,” Khanna said.
With the Valley set to go to elections during phase-1 on 11 April, it remains to be seen whether the party’s move to ditch saffron for green in Kashmir, will help the BJP in its poll arithmetic.
(The writer is a Kashmir-based journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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