The Indian government has announced a $4 billion special package to boost the infrastructure and industrialise the Jammu and Kashmir region in the next five years, government sources told Sputnik on Wednesday. The approval of one of the biggest special funds for the state was given during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs on Wednesday morning.
Sources said that the special package will attract investment in 14 sectors such as tourism, food processing, infrastructure, energy, clothing, biotechnology, handicraft, poultry, and education. The Modi government has already signed 168 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with public and private firms for investment in these sectors, an official document revealed. The government has also identified the space for industrial development and has bought 2,428 hectares of land.
The move is being seen as an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its chances in Kashmir in the forthcoming assembly elections that will be organised by India's Election Commission in the coming months. The BJP is hoping that the investment will win over voters in the election.
The last assembly elections were held in November to December 2014 after which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-BJP government was formed in the former state.
In the recently held District Development Council elections (Local body), BJP emerged as the single-largest party with 75 seats (mostly in Hindu-dominated Jammu region), whereas the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) secured 112 seats. This was the first election since Article 370 was scrapped and the PAGD is a seven-party coalition (including the National Conference and the PDP) formed for its restitution.
The party is now planning to redraw the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies for the first time since 1995. It is expected to increase the number of seats for the Hindu-majority Jammu region and make the party stronger in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.
The government jettisoned Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August 2019, ending the special status for Kashmir, which was the main feature for its accession to India in 1947.