His poll speech tomorrow will be compared to the former Prime Minister’s
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium on Monday — his first election rally in the Kashmir Valley — will inevitably be compared to a path-breaking speech made at the same venue 11 years ago by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is the most fondly remembered Indian leader here.
“Mr. Vajpayeeji did not offer us azadi [freedom], but for the first time, there was a willingness by New Delhi to discuss the issue,” recalled separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
“Mr. Vajpayee’s statesmanship was defined by his approach to Kashmir. For Modi, too, the only route to statesmanship is through Kashmir,” said Naeem Akhtar, leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), widely considered the front runner in the Assembly election. Against the shadow of a series of terror attacks in the valley, Mr. Modi’s task will be even more difficult.
Mr. Vajpayee summarised what he offered to Kashmir in a statement in the Lok Sabha in April 2003: “Issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the three principles of Insaaniyat [humanism], Jamhooriyat [democracy] and Kashmiriyat
[Kashmir’s age old legacy of amity].”
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