Modi couldn’t do Vajpayee in SK Stadium

  • Invokes Vajapayee’s three sentiments
  • Attendance was not upto expectations

 

(Shujaat Bukhari)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting in Srinagar on Monday (December 8) was not a routine election meeting. It was surely a significant one since BJP has never put up a show of strength in the capital city like this. Modi had chosen Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium as the venue of the meeting. The stadium has a mixed history of dissent and hope. It was the same place where the Indian cricket team faced a hostile crowd during two one-day international matches with Australia and West Indies in 1983 and 1985. The pitch was dug up by the anti-India youth most of whom were later to land in the armed rebellion camp. Both the matches proved to be a huge embarrassment for Indian team. That was an underpinning fact about the alienation in Kashmir but ignored as usual by the state. As the militancy erupted the stadium like other facilities remained deserted for years.

valley voice

However, after the return of “democratic” government in 1996, it was used as “safe” venue for public meetings by the mainstream parties. Omar Abdullah’s coronation also took place in this stadium in June 2000. It was again in April 2003 when the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee used this venue to rekindle hope not only for Jammu and Kashmir but for the entire South Asian region. His unexpected turn in policy towards Pakistan took everyone by surprise.

After December 2001 parliament attack, both India and Pakistan were at the edge and war seemed imminent. When Vajpayee landed in Srinagar on April 18, 2003 and straightway drove to the Stadium, the air was full of hostility. But when opened his mouth it changed into an air of hope. The flow in his speech was statesman like. He offered a hand of friendship to Pakistan even as his colleagues wanted war.

“As Prime Minister of the country, I wanted to have friendly relations with our neighbours and I went to Lahore, but it was returned with Kargil. We still continued and invited General Pervez Musharraf to Agra but again failed. We are again extending a hand of friendship but hands should be extended from both the sides. Both sides should decide to live together. We have everything which makes us to have good relations,” Vajpayee told the gathering in the first public rally addressed by any prime minister in 15 years. The last prime minister who spoke there was Rajiv Gandhi in 1987.

Shujaat Bukhari

Shujaat Bukhari, (The writer is a senior journalist and former Srinagar correspondent of The Hindu)

Vajpayee did not stop there only but on a later occasion he changed the discourse on talks within the constitution, saying, “We will talk within the ambit of Insaniyat”.

On Monday, when Modi spoke to a gathering, that was not as well attended as was expected, he first chose to strike a chord with youth by talking about development, employment and progress. Obviously luring the youth in election time is something that is well understood. Modi’s speech on non-political issues was full of strength as he took on traditional political parties in the mainstream for exploiting the people. He also touched people’s raw nerve- corruption that has led to a rot in the system.

He also made a reference to Vajpayee’s idea of “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat and Insaniyat”. But he did not elaborate on those three important touch points. Modi also did not talk about the turnout in the first two phases of ongoing Assembly elections.

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