• Monday, June 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will be India’s if we cross 400 seats in general polls: BJP leader

‘The real game will start after crossing 400. For the last few days, slogans of freedom are being raised in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Crossing 400 means return of PoK to India,’ Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi with Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of the north-eastern state of Assam, at an election rally in April 2024. (Photo by BIJU BORO/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

IN another controversial remark that could heat up the election environment in India, Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of the north-eastern state of Assam and a key member of the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has said that if his party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) wins 400 seats in the ongoing general polls, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) will be merged with India.

Countering the opposition’s allegations that the BJP-led NDA was eyeing 400-plus seats in this election to change the country’s Constitution, Sarma said on Wednesday (15) that the focus would be to make PoK a part of India. He also spoke about another two missions — building temples in Mathura and Gyanvapi in Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — places that have been in the headlines over the presence of Muslim places of prayers there.

He said India’s Hindu community will not be satisfied only with the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, which was inaugurated by prime minister Modi in Ayodhya in January this year.

Speaking at an election rally in Ramgarh in the eastern state of Jharkhand, the hardline leader said, “When we crossed 300 (seats) we scrapped Article 370, built the Ayodhya temple. Once we cross 400, we will ensure that Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir merges with India.”

“The real game will start after crossing 400. For the last few days, slogans of freedom are being raised in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Crossing 400 means return of PoK to India,” he added.

“Agitation is taking place every day in PoK and people are protesting against Pakistan, holding the Indian flag,” he added.

The BJP had gathered 303 seats in the parliamentary elections of 2019 and the NDA went on to register 351 seats in a parliament of 543 members.

Sarma, who was once a member of the opposition Indian National Congress, also targeted his former party saying no talks were held in the parliament about PoK when it was in power.

“When the Congress government was in power, we were told that one Kashmir is in India and the other in Pakistan. It was never discussed in our Parliament that Pakistan has ‘Occupied Kashmir,’ it is actually ours,” Sarma said.

He joined the BJP in 2015 after leaving the Congress and became the chief minister of Assam in 2021.

Sarma also hit out at veteran Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai after he asked how getting 400 seats in the parliamentary elections was related to PoK getting merged with India.

“If, for the first time in the history of parliamentary election, the merger of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has become an issue, why are you sad? World can expect miracles under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 400 plus seats in Lok Sabha,” he said in response to a tweet by Sardesai.

India foreign minister speaks about PoK violence

The issue of protests in PoK was also highlighted by Indian external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar the same day.

He reiterated that the region “will always be part of India” as he spoke about the ongoing violent protests there due to growing inflation rates. The diplomat said amid the chaos, the people of PoK must be comparing their situation to that in Jammu and Kashmir saying progress was evident in the Union Territory.

The minister’s remarks came even as violence erupted in PoK since May 10, with demonstrations urging the authorities to bring down the growing electricity tariff. Earlier this week, at least three persons were killed and six got injured after the Pakistani security forces opened fire on protesters who targeted their personnel.

New Delhi was seeing the disturbance in PoK as a “dynamic shift” in Islamabad’s relations with the region, an Indian Express report added.

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