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Article 370 dilution a talking point in this region of soldiers

Scrapping of Article 370 will benefit Haryana, CM Manohar Lal said at the outset at PM Narendra Modi’s rally in Kurukshetra, because the state contributes about 10 per cent soldiers to the armed forces and has lost many men in J&K owing to Article 370.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 16, 2019, 07.39 AM IST
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Kurukshetra/Ambala/Karnal/Kaithal: Putting the scrapping of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, on top of its election pitch ahead of the assembly polls, the BJP appears to be well-positioned to retain and perhaps even strengthen its fortress in northern Haryana which propelled it to power for the first time in the state in 2014.

The BJP won 22 out of the 27 seats here, losing three seats to independents and one each to the Congress and the INLD. ET travelled through Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Kaithal and Panchkula districts, and found the Article 370 issue resonating among people, especially in the many urban pockets here, adding to the post-Balakot sentiment which saw the BJP win all three Lok Sabha seats of northern Haryana by big margins just four months ago.

The region dominated by non-Jats, Dalits and Punjabis has seen development but people do complain of unemployment, a point Congress is highlighting. However, there is little awareness regarding the big promises of the Congress, eclipsed as they are by the debate over Article 370 and chief minister Manohar Lal’s popularity extending from his home constituency Karnal to the entire region. The Congress state president, Kumari Selja, has been an MP twice from Ambala, but the party’s troika – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi – has not campaigned in the region so far.

The scrapping of Article 370 will benefit Haryana in particular, CM Manohar Lal said at the outset at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Kurukshetra on Tuesday, because the state contributes about 10 per cent soldiers to the armed forces and has lost many men in J&K owing to Article 370.

“One rank, one pension was delivered by Modi earlier to us. No one here has a problem with scrapping of Article 370,” said an ex-serviceman out on a stroll in Kurukshetra’s Tau Devi Lal Park, raising an issue that finds some resonance in many villages ET visited.

Article 370, however, appeared to be a bigger stick for the BJP to beat Congress with. “Congress Haryana in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad and state president Kumari Selja voted in Rajya Sabha against the government on issue of Article 370. People will not forget this,” BJP minister and Ambala candidate Anil Vij told ET.

Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda may have sensed the sentiment on the ground and backed the government but his party seems to be on the receiving end on the issue.

“Article 370 was in the Constitution on which Modi took oath on and it was removed in one stroke - that is the law now, so no more needs to be said,” Azad said in Hooda's presence while launching Congress manifesto last week.

Asked about his stand on Article 370, the party’s national spokesman and Kaithal candidate Randeep Surjewala said, “It appears BJP is fighting an election in Assam, West Bengal or J&K rather than in Haryana. Neither NRC (National Register of Citizens) nor triple talaq or any other issue has anything to do with livelihood of people and their bread and butter issues.”

Surjewala, who may well be the last man standing for the Congress again in the region, said the BJP was trying to hide the issues of farmer unrest, unemployment and the collapse of trade and business. “Mandi (downturn) aur talabandi (shutdown) are the catchwords you can find in every trade and business and every shop,” he said, signalling his party’s efforts to fight the election on local issues even as the BJP is seeking votes on national issues.

CONGRESS MANIFESTO TOO LATE

The Congress has promised major monetary benefits in its manifesto released on October 11, such as a monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 7,000-10,000, but awareness regarding this appeared to be extremely low in villages. A group of village women in Ambala’s Mulana constituency did not know about the Rs 2,000 monthly ‘Chulha kharcha’ dole promised by the Congress while many farmers ET spoke to in Yamunanagar’s rural seat of Sadhaura said they were unsure to vote for the Congress as they were unaware to what extent the Congress would waive farm loans – the Congress has not specified a waiver amount in its manifesto.

“I believe such a manifesto with big monetary promises should have been released at least three months ago to allow the fivesix major promises to penetrate and seep through the electorate. The same problem was with Nyay minimum income scheme promise in Lok Sabha polls,” said a senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be identified.

Congress party’s Panchkula candidate and former deputy CM Chander Mohan cited a toll-free number which people can dial to know various points about the manifesto. Most voters ET spoke to were unaware of this toll-free number.

SYL A NON-ISSUE

The yet-to-be-completed Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, which passes through northern Haryana, entering from Ambala and going on till Karnal, seems a non-issue in this election as farmers in areas abutting the canal see little hope in the project now despite the Supreme Court’s orders.

Nonetheless, the BJP used this issue to refuse an alliance in Haryana with its Punjab ally, Shiromani Akali Dal, saying the latter should first change its stand on not giving water to Haryana through the SYL.Article 370 dilution a talking point in this region of soldiers

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