J&K pins hope on Modi visit, awaits major economic package

Jammu/Srinagar, Oct 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to Jammu and Kashmir has rekindled hopes for a much awaited economic package being announced this time.

Modi is arriving on a day-long visit to the state on November 7 and will have a busy schedule.

He will address the first-ever Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rally in Srinagar. This is also Modi’s first visit to the Kashmir Valley since the present PDP-BJP alliance took office here on March 1.

He will inaugurate the 450-MW second phase of the Baglihar power project in Ramban district of Jammu region. He will also inaugurate the four-laning project of Udhampur-Bannihal stretch of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

The prime minister will inaugurate the Shaheed Amarnath Bhagat skill development institute at Baglihar.

Modi is also expected to announce a large economic package of around Rs.90,000 crores for the state.

A clear indication that this time the announcement would be made by the prime minister came on Thursday from Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed who told a public meeting that Modi’s visit will bring in good news for everybody and help development, relief and rehabilitation.

For the flood victims, business community and the common man, the visit is being seen as something akin to children waiting for Santa Claus to bring them gifts on Christmas eve.

“He (Modi) came last year and celebrated Diwali here, but there were only fireworks, but no light for us. This time we are sure he would not disappoint us,” said Masood-ul-Hassan, 54, a resident of the HMT area in Srinagar whose house was inundated in last year’s unprecedented floods.

Rakesh Gupta, president of Jammu chamber of commerce and industry, believes Modi would announce an all-inclusive package during his visit.

“We are expecting relief for the flood victims. We are expecting relief for refugees of 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. We are expecting relief for victims of cross-border firing and we are expecting relief for traders, industrialists and transporters.

“We are expecting an all inclusive economic package from the prime minister this time,” Gupta told IANS.

On the other hand, Gupta’s counterpart in the Valley, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, says it is a now or never situation for the people in Kashmir.

“The prime minister’s visit has rekindled hope among all of us. It is an overdue announcement which he must make…during this visit. People have already seen the first anniversary of the unprecedented floods those hit us in September last year.

“Everybody suffered that disaster and it has been more than one year and nothing substantial has happened. The prime minister is coming on November 7 and we believe he would not come here just to address a public meeting. He would have good news for all of us,” Wani hoped.

The likely announcement of an economic package would definitely bring cheer for the common man, but for the ruling PDP-BJP coalition it has become a question of political survival.

The popular graph of the two parties has collectively and individually taken a serious beating.

These two parties have lost political ground so fast that the opposition National Conference (NC) and the Congress are patting each other’s back.

“While the BJP is blamed in the Jammu region for compromising on its right wing Hindutva agenda, the PDP is blamed in the Muslim majority Valley for bringing the RSS to Kashmir,” said Bashir Manzar, editor of a daily English newspaper here.

Would he? Won’t he? This is the million dollar question that has been haunting the ruling coalition ever since speculations started here about ‘an all inclusive economic package’ to be announced by Modi on November 7.

“Nobody can hazard a second guess on what the Prime Minister will do. He takes his own decisions and then ensures that everybody is on board. So, let us hope the bailout happens this time,” said a senior minister of the state government requesting not to be named.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

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