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Modi to visit Jammu and Kashmir amid row over Article 370

Modi to visit Jammu and Kashmir amid row over Article 370

Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Jammu and Kashmir Friday is seen as a tough political call as it comes in the wake of a raging row over a demand for revoking Article 370 of the constitution that gives special status to the state.

On his maiden visit to the state after assuming office, the prime minister has a busy schedule encompassing development and security.

But what remains understated is that Modi is perhaps the first prime minister of the country who is politically opposed by both the separatists and the National Conference (NC).

Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmad Shah, have all called for a complete shutdown Friday.

Geelani had earlier called for "peaceful protests" but later changed his appeal to a complete shutdown across the Valley.

He said the strike was not against Modi as a person, but against the visit of "the prime minister of a country that has subjugated Kashmiris".

While the response of the separatists has been on expected lines, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has issued a made that is highly critical of New Delhi's approach to the Kashmir.

In a statement made in Ramban district of Jammu region Tuesday, Omar Abdullah said Kashmir problem is not one that can be resolved through economic packages.

He even cautioned those trying to rake up a controversy over the abrogation of Article 370 that gives special status to the state.

"I have repeatedly and vehemently highlighted that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be equated with other states of India.

"We cannot be browbeaten by money and muscle power. We have withstood all challenges in the past and will do it again in the future", Omar Abdullah said, sending out a signal to New Delhi.

He also spoke about his grandfather, NC founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah's arrest in 1953, and the ouster of his father Farooq Abdullah from power in 1984 -- two events in Kashmir's history the NC has been blaming the centre for the alienation of the people here.

Omar Abdullah seems to have been rattled by two things.

First, the drubbing his party took during the Lok Sabha elections in which the NC and even its ruling alliance partner the Congress failed to win even a single seat from the state.

Second, the fact that the NC fears it might face the same plight during the state assembly elections due here in October-November this year.

Modi's problem is not just the opposition by the separatists and the huge challenges of security and development. He has also to address the political concerns of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has already embarked on an ambitious political strategy to get at least "five lotuses" from the Valley.

This means the BJP, which has eleven seats at present in then 87-member state assembly, plans to win at atleast five seats from the Valley during the next elections while aiming to improve its political fortunes in the Jammu region as well.

Given the stiff opposition from the separatists and no-love-lost situation with the ruling NC-Congress combine in the state, it is likely the prime minister would abstain from any political overture during his Friday visit to the state.

"He would inaugurate the 25 kilometre long stretch of the railways from Katra town to Udhampur. Review security at the borders with Pakistan and China and also in the hinterlands at a high level meeting in Srinagar, inaugurate the 240 megawatt hydro-electric power project in the border town of Uri and return to New Delhi the same day," said a source in the state government.

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