Maharashtra will have assembly polls next month, along with Haryana and Jharkhand, and all the major and regional parties are gearing up for the fight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a huge election rally in Nashik on Tuesday.
In his speech, Modi praised Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' performance and sought another term for him. Apart from other issues, he focussed on Kashmir and freedom fighter Veer Savarkar.
Modi said, "Earlier we used to raise the slogan 'Kashmir Hamara Hai (Kashmir is ours), but now our slogan should be "Kashmir ko banana hai (we must build a new Kashmir). The time has come to turn Jammu & Kashmir into a paradise. Already we have lost 42,000 people in Kashmir due to terrorism."
The PM's speech makes it quite clear that Kashmir will be at the top in the list of poll issues that will figure in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, where the BJP is seeking another term. On Thursday, Modi clearly said that the decision to nullify Article 370 was taken "keeping in view the sentiments of 130 crore Indians".
Modi said: "A lot of efforts are being made from across the border (read Pakistan) to spread unrest in the valley. The youths, mothers and sisters in Jammu and Kashmir have now made up their mind to come out of the long phase of violence. They want development and jobs."
Modi mentioned Kashmir because Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar had recently criticized the house arrest of opposition leaders in the valley. Modi said: "I can understand the confusion of the Congress. But Sharad Pawar? I feel bad when an experienced leader like him makes wrong statements for votes. He said he likes the neighbouring country. It seems he finds them better than us, but the world knows where the terror factories lie."
Modi then touched upon the issue of the great freedom fighter Veer Savarkar, a figure respected by the people of Maharashtra. The PM said: "Maharashtra has given birth to many brave sons, like freedom fighter Veer Savarkar. It was Savarkar who smiled in the face of adversity even when he was being tortured by the British during the freedom struggle. Savarkar was a leader who instilled the pride of nationalism in our youths."
Modi raised the issue of Savarkar because the Congress party in 2016 had posted a series of tweets calling Savarkar a "traitor" and alleging that he had "begged for mercy from the British". Savarkar's grandson Ranjit Savarkar had filed a complaint before a Mumbai court which has now directed the police to question Rahul Gandhi in this matter. Surely, this issue will gain traction as the poll campaign rises to a feverish pitch.
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