Jammu: They had ruled the campaigns in Jammu and Kashmir during polls in 2008 and again this year during parliamentary elections, but as the state heads once more to the hustings, the slogans of discontent and dissent of the earlier political contests have been overshadowed by calls for development.
Polls in the state have invariably seen the various rivals seek votes upon calls for 'Greater Autonomy', 'Self-rule', etc. But, ahead of the Assembly elections which kicks off on November 25, all parties, both national and regional, have been trying to woo voters on the "development" plank.
For example, the ruling National Conference (NC) -- which had sought votes in 2008 and in 2014 on calls for 'Greater Autonomy', and withdrawal of AFSPA and Art. 370, among others -- has replaced those slogans with the promise of development as it showcases Omar Abdullah's chief ministership from 2009- 2014 as a model one for the state.
Its partner in the government which has, however, decided to contest the elections alone this time, Congress, too, is pitching for growth and prosperity and is reminding people of the 'Khushal Jammu and Kashmir' under Ghulam Nabi Azad's term as chief minister between 2006 and 2008.
In earlier elections, Congress had batted strongly for regional councils for the three regions, but it has discarded those slogans with the prime focus now on "development".
Not to be outdone, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had pushed its cause on the rhetoric of 'self rule', dual currency and soft borders in 2008, has chosen not to invoke those slogans. It is looking to win the polls through talk of 'healing touch' and 'peace and development with dignity' even as it highlights the period when Mufti Mohmmad Sayeed was the J-K chief minister.
Coming to BJP, which managed to win three of the six Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2014 general elections with its slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas', it is going to the public with the slogan of 'Development' while counting on the Narendra Modi factor.
Says BJP leader Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State
(MoS) in the PMO and the party's Udhampur MP, "The main focus of BJP is total development of the entire state comprising Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh -- 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'."
Asserting that Art. 370, an ideological issue, is on the agenda of the party, Singh said, "The main aim of the party is to liberate the state and its people from years of misgovernment, corruption and misappropriation of Central funds and replace it with all-round development."
During campaigning for the first phase of elections in Chenab valley, BJP candidates have been stressing on the need for development without even touching on their previous slogans regarding Art. 370, regional councils and discrimination with Jammu region.
"Our candidates will seek the mandate on development and a corruption-free, nepotism-free society so that the common man has a say in shaping the future of the state," Singh said on the campaign trail in Doda.
"Our focus and prime agenda is all-round development with transparency and corruption-free governance. Our role model is Prime Minister Narendra Modi," J-K BJP spokesman Arun Kumar told.
Congress, for its part, is asserting that 'development' will be the buzzword in these polls.
The party's star campaigner, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that the Congress-led coalition government between 2006-08 had given a new paradigm of development and governance to the state marked by all-round and equitable development, efficiency and transparency.
"We made 'development' a narrative and discourse in the state and dispersed the fruits of development in every nook and corner," said Azad.
The chief of the opposition PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, too, is telling the people to vote for a strong and stable government so that all issues of rehabilitation, governance and the development of the state are addressed with full confidence.
Her party is making no mention of their core issue of "self rule".
During campaigning in Chenab valley, Mehbooba said, "PDP will revive the reconciliation, reconstruction, rehabilitation and development process it had started during its brief tenure in the government between 2002-2005."
Like PDP, NC too is pushing a development agenda.
NC's Provincial President (Jammu), Devender Singh Rana, said there has been comprehensive development in the state in the last six years under Omar's rule.
On the campaign trail in Ramban, Rana said, "The achievements of the Omar Abdullah government are historic and path-breaking."
In the several rallies he has addressed in Chenab valley, Omar has not brought up the issues of autonomy and AFSPA, choosing to focus instead on development and building a 'Naya Kashmir'.
"People should come forward in large numbers to vote for its candidates to give the party a clear majority and contribute positively in realising the goal of 'Naya Kashmir', envisioned by NC for the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh," Omar said in Banihal.
As they champion the cause of development, NC and Congress have also got drawn into a war of words.
Thus, Omar has hit back at Congress for its statement claiming that backward areas were neglected by him.
"Instead of finding faults in others, you (Congress) should scan your own functioning," Omar said in remarks at Ramban.
NC's Working President has also rejected the alleged misinformation being spread by some Congress leaders regarding the development scenario in the backward areas of the state.
In veiled attack on the Omar Abdullah government, Congress' Azad said earlier this week at Gurez that no development was seen in the area since 2008.
"It was utter neglect and deprivation that the remote and backward areas faced till 2006. A concerted effort to develop these areas was made during my tenure as chief minister. However, the same script of neglect is being repeated since 2008," Azad had charged.