BJP’s Budget

In its first union budget, the BJP-led NDA government has allocated more than Rs 1000 crore for Jammu and ‘Kashmir.  Of that, Rs 500 crore have been earmarked for the rehabilitation of the Pandits who had migrated to various parts of India and Jammu post-1990. Another Rs 500 crore have been kept to develop a solar power plant in Ladakh. Sports too has been allocated Rs 200 crore. The BJP has also announced an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) for Jammu.

What does this signify for Kashmir?

For a party supposed to have won a momentous general election on the “development” plank, the BJP has shown utter contempt for Kashmir, and literally thrown its own oft-repeated perception of Kashmir’s problems out of the window. Or may be, in its heart of hearts, it has already written Kashmir out of India. Be that as it may, the party’s apologists – and the tribe seems to be multiplying at great speed – ought to be a little more forthcoming why the BJP’s new “visionary” machinery has stalled just a little south of the Jawahar Tunnel. How would they explain the BJP’s patent lack of urgency in addressing itself to a region on which it has a particular line of thinking?  The BJP has done nothing in the budget to suggest it take the theories it mouths publicly seriously.

When the now-Prime Minister visited Jammu during his election campaign, he said: “Without development, our problems will not be solved. Youth need employment.” After assuming office, he promised to win the “hearts and minds” of the people of Kashmir. A safe conclusion to draw, should one take the Prime Minister at his word, is that he has a grave communication problem with his Finance Minister.

True, the crushed pashmina industry did get Rs 50 crore, but that is about all – nothing of substance, not even by way of intent, on correcting Kashmir’s myriad development deficits. This is remarkable for a party that views the problem of Kashmir through the prism of underdevelopment, unemployment, and lack of avenues..

Many would argue that since the Regional Engineering College in Srinagar has already been upgraded to the status of a National Institute of Technology, nothing untoward ought to be read in granting an Indian Institute of Technology for Jammu. Fair enough. But place the move in the overall perspective, or lack of it, of the budget vis a vis Kashmir and the BJP’s institutional and institutionalized bias comes into sharp focus.  It probably goes much further. Being a party, and government, that enjoys the munificent patronage of hardnosed business leaders, and has a substantial following among the even harder-nosed trading community, the BJP seems to have concluded that institution-building in Kashmir is ghatey ka sauda. Clear proof that even the “nationalist” party deems Kashmir’s future as uncertain and undecided.