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Amit Shah hails increased voter turnout in J&K as proof of Article 370 success; clears air on North-South divide


Union Home Minister Amit Shah highlighted the increased voter turnout in Jammu and Kashmir, rising from 14 per cent to nearly 40 per cent in the Srinagar constituency, as evidence of the success of Article 370’s abrogation. In an exclusive media interaction, Shah emphasized the peaceful conduct of the elections and the participation of extremist group leaders in the democratic process.

He also addressed BRS leader KT Rama Rao’s remarks on the North-South divide, outlined the BJP’s goals to secure over 400 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections for political stability and development, and dismissed opposition claims about plans to amend the Constitution. Additionally, Shah commented on Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s interim bail in the excise policy-linked money laundering case and its implications for AAP’s campaign.

Amit Shah in an exclusive conversation with media said that “I would like to tell those who raise questions on the abrogation of Article 370 that the rise in the voter turnout from 14 per cent in the past to 40 per cent (in Srinagar) is the greatest testament to the success of the decision.”

Shah said that while people in the Kashmir Valley used to shout slogans for boycotting elections, all voters of extremist groups exercised their franchise in the elections this year. “All leaders of extremist groups voted. It does not matter to whom they vote. That is their right. But at least, they were part of the democratic process. Earlier slogans were shouted to boycott elections. Today elections were held peacefully,” the Union Minister said.

Noting that there was no violence in Srinagar during the polls, Shah said, “Not even a baton was wielded. There was no instance of rigging. Voting was held patiently, with no violence from any political party. This shows that change is visible.”

Amit Shah also pointed out that, compared to the usual three per cent voter turnout among displaced Kashmiri Pandits, more than 40 per cent of them voted in the Lok Sabha elections in Srinagar.

“For the first time, more than 40 per cent of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits voted in the elections. Till today, the figure had never crossed 3 per cent. This shows that people are now confident of themselves and believe in democracy,” the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.

According to the Information and PR Department, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Srinagar constituency, which saw the first general election after the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K, recorded 37.99 per cent voting. This is the highest voter turnout in several decades.

The voter turnout in Srinagar was 40.94 per cent in 1996, 30.06 per cent in 1998, 11.93 per cent in 1999, 18.57 per cent in 2004, 25.55 per cent in 2009, 25.86 per cent in 2014, and 14.43 per cent in 2019. Reacting strongly to Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader KT Rama Rao’s remarks on the North-South divide, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said considering the South as a separate country was ‘highly objectionable.’

Commenting about Congress, Amit Shah said, “This country can never be divided again. A senior Congress leader had said that divide North India and South India, and Congress did not distance itself from this statement. The people of the country should think about the agenda of Congress.”

“If someone says that the South is a separate country then it is highly objectionable,” said added.

The Home Minister asserted that the BJP would perform better in South India in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections: “The BJP is going to become the largest party in five southern states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka.”

Speaking to the media last week, BRS leader KT Rama Rao said, ‘North India is a different country altogether.’ “It is a different country altogether. It is a different world. I am not saying it literally, but it is practically a different country. I think the issues centred here are different from those in the South. People here think differently,” KTR had said. “That’s why the BJP cannot deepen its footprints in the South,” he added.

Speaking on per capita income, the BRS leader claimed that Telangana has Rs 357, which is the highest compared to some other states in Northern India.

“We are at 357 in Telangana, Bihar is at 57 and UP is at 87 or something. It’s a fact that it’s a different country. It’s the fault of the Governments that they are not able to provide good administration. Their priorities were all in the wrong place. They seem to be content with keeping their people backwards and just getting votes by playing on emotions. That’s not the case in the South. We, here focus on big and real issues,” KTR said.

Drawing a comparison of progress and development for the southern states, he said, “Look at Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. The infrastructure, the education and literacy levels, and healthcare parameters. Look at any index. We are far ahead of any other state, especially in the Hindi hinterland.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has dismissed the Opposition’s claims that the BJP wants to win more than 400 Lok Sabha seats to amend the Constitution. He said that the BJP was mandated to make changes in the Constitution for the past decade but has yet to do so.

In an interview, Amit Shah said that the party aims to secure more than 400 seats to stabilize the country’s political landscape.

“We have had the mandate to change the Constitution for the last 10 years, but we never did that. What do you think Rahul Baba and company would say, and the country will believe it? This country has given us a clear mandate, and the people of this country already know that Modi ji already had sufficient majority to change the Constitution, but we never did that,” Shah said.

“Yes, we want to win 400 seats in the Lok Sabha polls to bring stability to politics in the country. We want 400 seats to protect our borders, to make India the third-largest economy in the world, and to ensure that a few poor people who are yet to get the benefits, and we have to fulfil it. We want 400 seats because clean water is yet to reach every household, and there is a lot of work to be done in the field of natural farming in this country. We want 400 seats because we want to provide free treatment of up to Rs 5 lakh to every senior citizen aged above 70 years of age,” he further said.

Shah’s remarks came after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement in which he referred to BJP. They said that a political party had allegedly promised in its poll campaign that they would be uprooting the Constitution if they won the elections. “For the first time, a political party has said that if they come to power, they will be destroying the Constitution. This Constitution gave rights to the poor, backward, Dalits, Adivasis, minorities, farmers, and laborer’s of India. And today, big leaders of the BJP say that if they win the elections, they will uproot this book,” Rahul Gandhi said while addressing a public rally in Odisha’s Balangir on May 15.

Furthermore, Home Minister Amit Shah underscored the BJP’s track record in fulfilling promises, such as the abrogation of Article 370 and the construction of the Ram Mandir. “We have abrogated Article 370, removed Triple Talaq, and taken up and taken up the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. We brought the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) with the help of the mandate in the last ten years of our governance,” he said.

When asked about the slogan ‘400 Paar’ sounding like it was needed for a big step, Amit Shah said there’s not much difference between 400 Paar and 272 and that the BJP simply seeks expansion. “We never needed 400 seats for a big step; we can do it now. Won’t anyone try to expand their work; won’t the BJP expand itself?”

Hitting out at the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government, Shah said, “See, the history of misuse of majority is not of my party, but the history of misuse of majority during Indira Gandhi’s time was done by the Congress. They changed the article, Lok Sabha was extended, an emergency was imposed, and 1.5 lakh people were sent to jail for 19 months without any reason. We never misused it, and no one takes Rahul Baba seriously.”

Exuding confidence in winning the Lok Sabha polls with a full majority, Amit Shah said that the country’s people are with PM Modi to form a stable government.

“These people want an unstable government. The public has seen what a stable government can do for the country. The youth of the country have suffered the pain of unstable governments for 30 years. Modi ji’s stable government came for two terms and now in the third term, a more stable government will be formed, so the people of the country are with this goal of Modi ji,” he added.

Further, Union Minister Amit Shah took a swipe at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, suggesting that the public will be reminded of the liquor ‘scam’ whenever they see Kejriwal campaigning for the AAP and the Congress in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

While responding to a question on whether the I.N.D.I alliance will benefit from the interim bail of Kejriwal in the Delhi excise policy-linked money laundering case. Amit Shah said, “I think wherever he goes for the poll campaign, the people will remember the liquor scam, even in Punjab. When they see Kejriwal, people will also see big bottles in front of them.”

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s verdict granting Kejriwal interim bail, Shah said, “I don’t want to comment on the SC’s verdict. However, I want to explain the way the leaders of AAP claim the court’s decision as Kejriwal’s victory. What was their plea before the SC? They said his arrest was illegal, but the apex court dismissed it. Then they modified their plea and asked for bail; the court rejected that, too. The Supreme Court said that as per your demand to campaign in elections, we are giving you interim bail and you have to surrender on June 1.”

Amit Shah further called Kejriwal’s remarks that a vote for the “broom” (Aam Aadmi Party symbol) would ensure that he does not return to jail a “wrong comment on the functioning of the Supreme Court.”