Jammu, Nov 17: BJP, which has been trying to shrug off the 'communal' tag, has fielded nearly 40 per cent Muslim candidates in Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls under its ambitious 'Mission 44 plus' to wrest power in the state. BJP is contesting more than 70 Assembly seats out of 87 and has fielded 32 Muslim candidates.
While the saffron party has fielded 25 Muslims in Kashmir Valley, six BJP candidates from the community are in the fray in Jammu region and one in Ladakh. BJP has also fielded four Kashmiri Pandit candidates and a Sikh leader in assembly constituencies in Kashmir Valley and three Buddhists from Ladakh region as a strategic move.
"BJP is not an untouchable in Kashmir Valley. People in the Valley come out in huge numbers in our rallies, road shows and programmes as they look towards BJP as an alternative to NC and PDP, which are ruled by Kashmir's two important dynasties," BJP in-charge for J&K and MP Avinash Rai Khanna told PTI. BJP hopes to improve on its success in the Parliamentary elections in May when it won three out of six seats in the state.
The rest three went to PDP while NC-Congress coalition was wiped out. "We won three seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and took a lead on 27 Assembly seats," Khanna said, adding "the battle to reach to our Mission 44 plus is just on 17 seats". BJP is trying to focus more on poll plank of peace and development to reach out to people in the country's only Muslim-majority state rather than controversial issue like the demand for abrogation of Article 370 of Constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
It has put the issue of Article 370 virtually out of the poll frame, saying it would do only want the people of the state want. The BJP's mantra for 2014 Assembly elections is freeing J&K from "ruling families" of Kashmir and corruption along with a promise of good governance and development while invoking the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and performance of BJP governments in other states. Khanna, who has been leading scores of road shows and rallies in Kashmir Valley, is optimistic about accomplishing 'Mission 44 plus'.
"During the rallies at Ganderbal and Kangan, Modi's popularity was visible," he said, adding that "the communal tag used as propaganda tool in past, is not being referred to now at all".
"We are contesting this elections on poll plank of making Jammu and Kashmir an 'international tourism hub' by bringing peace and development to the region," Khanna said. In 2008 Assembly elections, BJP had fielded 24 Muslim candidates and seven Kashmiri Pandits out of a total of 60 candidates in Jammu and Kashmir and bagged 11 seats. In 2002 Assembly elections, BJP gave tickets to 17 Muslims candidates out of 58 seats it contested in Jammu and Kashmir and won one seat.