The elections in Jammu and Kashmir’s District Development Council were a mirror to those who taught him democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said there was no democracy in the country.
Modi said that while his government completed three-tier panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir in just over a year of the region becoming a Union territory, the dispensation in Puducherry could not carry out local body elections despite a Supreme Court order.
While launching the Ayushman Bharat scheme virtually to extend health care benefits to Jammu and Kashmir residents, Modi said: “There are some people in Delhi who keep cursing, criticising and insulting me. They want to teach me lessons in democracy. I want to hold up a mirror to them… Look at Jammu and Kashmir, within a short span of becoming a union territory they have held DDC (District Development Council) polls as an example of democracy. But see the irony, on the other hand, despite the Supreme Court’s order in Puducherry, panchayat and municipal elections have not happened.”
“The party of those teaching me democracy is in power in Puducherry,” the Prime Minister said, without naming the Congress, which has been ruling the UT since 2016. It shows the gap between what some parties preach and what they do, and also highlights their commitment to democracy, he added.
On Thursday, Gandhi, after meeting President Ram Nath Kovind and submitting a memorandum signed by 20 million farmers seeking the withdrawal of three contentious farm laws, told reporters that India was now an “imaginary democracy” and anyone who opposes the PM, “will be dubbed as a terrorist and anti-national”. “Democracy…. which country are you talking about? There is no democracy in India,” he said.
The seven-party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have both declared victory in Jammu and Kashmir’s DDC elections, interpreting differently what the verdict meant in the backdrop of the Centre’s decision to scrap the erstwhile state’s special status last year. PAGD partners maintained that the people rejected the decision to scrap Article 370, which accorded special status to J&K, while the BJP contended that the results showed voters said no to “terrorism and separatism” and took the path of nationalism.
Referring to the DDC elections, the first major electoral process after the nullification of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into two Union territories, the PM said people’s participation in huge numbers in the polls made it a moment of pride for the country.
“The people of J&K have voted for strengthening democracy in Jammu and Kashmir. People of all walks of life came out and voted for development in DDC elections. Jammu and Kashmir has won Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of ‘gram swaraj’,” he said.
He said his government has been committed to securing people’s right to elect their representatives at the local level and it was for this reason that it broke off the alliance between the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party, which ran a coalition government in the erstwhile state.
“There was a time, we were a part of the Jammu and Kashmir government, we had a deputy CM; but we broke the alliance. Our issue was that the panchayat elections should be held and people be given their due rights to choose their representatives,” the PM said.
He added that the development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir was one of the highest priorities of his government and in line with that, the Ayushman Bharat scheme will ensure universal health coverage and quality and affordable essential health services to all.
The scheme offers free-of-cost insurance cover to all residents of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, and extends financial cover of up to ₹5 lakh per family on a floater basis to all residents. There is a provision for operational extension of the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana’ (PM-JAY) to approximately 15 lakh additional families and the benefits of the scheme will be portable across the country.
With inputs from PTI