Jammu and Kashmir recurred as an election issue in Maharashtra as BJP chief Amit Shah held his second rally in the state today. The BJP chief was campaigning in Beed, an area that has seen four consecutive droughts, but the focus was on nationalism and the abrogation of Article 370, which gave the state a special status.
Beed is represented in the state assembly by Pankaja Munde, the daughter of the late Gopinath Munde, one of the BJP's hugely popular leaders in the area. Pankaja Munde has carried forward her father's legacy. She represents Parli in the Assembly while her sister Dr. Pritam Munde is the Member of Parliament from Beed. This time Pankaja Munde faces a challenge from her cousin Dhananjay Munde who is contesting on a NCP ticket.
Jammu and Kashmir has been a recurrent theme in this round of state elections. Last month, at a public meeting to explain how the government has executed its decision and reasons for it, Amit Shah had blamed former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for the formation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), and said it was because of the "untimely ceasefire" declared in 1948.
Today, Mr Shah, who was welcomed in area with waving of 370 flags, said, "By abrogating Article 370 Narendra Modi has given this country a reason to celebrate nationalism".
Explaining the party's views, Pankaja Munde said, nationalism is the "only string that can tie everyone together in this country".
"It can bring everyone together. That's why today we have given you a salute of 370 canons and 370 tri-colour," said the 40-year-old, who is the Minister for Rural Development and Women and Child Development in the government of Devendra Fadnavis.
The BJP had also built their campaign for the April-May Lok Sabha elections around nationalism - a shift that took place soon after the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama in February. Days later, the Air Force had conducted air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp at Pakistan's Balakot.
In August, the government had ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two union territories. It was accompanied by a series of restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir -- including the unplugging of internet in Jammu and Kashmir and the house arrest of political leaders -- that triggered opposition protests.
The BJP, however, has repeatedly stressed on what it called the Congress's "inability" to take a similar step.
"The Modi-led government, which came to power with a thumping majority, revoked Article 370 in just three months of winning the elections (held earlier this year). Now, people should ask the opposition why they were unable to revoke Article 370," Mr Shah reiterated today.
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