JAMMU: A minister in the NC-Congress coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir has done what the Congress usually accuses the BJP of doing, playing to the Hindu right wing gallery.
Addressing a Youth Congress workers ‘sadhbhavana’ rally to mark the birth anniversary of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Akhnoor town, senior Congress leader and minister for public health engineering (PHE), irrigation and flood control, Sham Lal Sharma asked, “If Ghani Khan Choudhary could become chief minister of Hindu majority West Bengal and Abdul Rehman Antuley of Maharashtra where Muslim population is merely two percent, why can’t a Hindu lead Jammu Kashmir and become chief minister of our state?”
Since 1947, Jammu & Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in India, has only had Muslim chief ministers.
Amid big applaud from the crowd, the minister on Wednesday also cited the example of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and four Muslim Presidents of India, who belonged to the minority community but rose to the top positions in the country.
“If our approach is secular and we don’t discriminate with anyone on the basis of religion, then what is the problem if a minority Hindu leads the Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir?” he asked.”You must fight for a Hindu chief minister for the state. You should also raise your voice for a regional council for Jammu region,” he asserted.
This was not for the first time when Sham Lal Sharma flared up regional passions. But to use the Hindu religious card in politics is unprecedented in the history of the Congress in Jammu & Kashmir.
Sham Lal also expressed his resentment over meagre representation of Jammuites in the government and asked how Jammu region could get justice when out of 7000 employees in the state civil secretariat, only 200 belonged to Jammu.
Reiterating formation of regional councils to end alleged regional discrimination with Jammu and Ladakh, the minister said, “Regional council to Jammu and sub-regional councils to Poonch-Rajouri, Chenab Region and North Kashmir, comprising Kupwara, Bandipora and Baramulla will end the uncertainty as well as ensure equitable development of all areas of the state.”
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, he questioned Modi’s silence over the recent ceasefire violations along India-Pakistan border and asked the Prime Minister and defence minister Arun Jaitley to explain their stand.
In November 2010, Sharma had created a political furor by advocating ‘azadi’ (secession) for Kashmir, separate statehood for Jammu and union territory status for Ladakh.