Buoyed by the joining of former National Conference legislator Dr. Shahnaz Ganai in the party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed that many "big faces" from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will join the Saffron Brigade within a week.
National general secretary of BJP, Tarun Chugh, who is incharge of J&K BJP, claimed that many senior leaders are in touch and they will join the party very soon.
Talking to media persons after Dr. Shehnaz Ganai joined the BJP, Chugh said it is just the beginning. "Many political stalwarts of J&K are in touch with us", he claimed.
"With terrorism on the decline, tourism in Jammu and Kashmir flourished, turning the region into a vibrant hub", he said, adding, "This serves as a lesson for those who previously governed and exploited Jammu and Kashmir as an ATM".
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership has garnered trust, fueling Jammu and Kashmir's development, with new members like Dr. Shahnaz Ganai joining BJP. This shift signals a departure from past exploitation, as the region strides toward growth and representation of suppressed voices, including the Gurjjar and Bakarwal communities", he said.
Who is Dr. Shehnaz Ganai?
A former Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) of the National Conference, Dr. Shahnaz Ganai belongs to a prominent political family in the border district of Poonch.
A doctor by profession, Shahnaz Ganai the is daughter of Ghulam Ahmed Ganai who was tall leader of the National Conference in the Poonch district. Ghulam Ahmed Ganai remained a minister in the successive governments of the National Conference.
Dr Ganai, after doing an MBBS from Government Medical College did her PG from Osmania University and also PG diploma from Symbiosis Institute.
She joined the medical department and served as an assistant surgeon in Poonch district. During the 2005 devastating earthquake, she started to work with the affected families.
She quit her job and formally joined NC in 2007. In 2012 she became the first woman to be elected from the Panchayati quota to the J&K Legislative Council.
In May 2019, Dr Shehnaz Ganai called it a day from the National Conference and resigned from the party.
Dr Ganai is known for being an outspoken and firebrand politician in the women's arena of Jammu and Kashmir.
After granting ST status BJP is focussing on prominent Pahari leaders
Apart from addressing the concern of the Gujjars and Bakerwals, the BJP has shifted its focus on Muslim Pahari leaders after passing of the historic and much-awaited "Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Schedule Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023" in the Parliament last.
After the passing of this bill, the "Pahari ethnic group," "Paddari Tribe" "Koli," and "Gadda Brahman" communities will be included in the Scheduled Tribe List of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Scheduled Tribe status was long pending demand of the Pahari-speaking people of Jammu and Kashmir. After fulfilling this demand, the BJP is now trying to reap its political benefits by convincing prominent Pahari leaders to join the party.
After getting ST status, prominent Pahari leaders met with senior BJP leaders and were in touch with the party.
Already a prominent Pahari face of Rajouri, Mohammad Iqbal Malik has joined the party and won the election as a DDC member on a BJP ticket.
After granting ST status to Paharis, the BJP is hoping to get the support of this community that is a dominant force in Poonch, Rajouri districts of Jammu province, and Baramulla and Kupwara districts in Kashmir Valley.
This community had been demanding ST status for decades and now their demand has been fulfilled. There are 9.6 lakh Pahari community people in J&K.
A prominent Pahari leader and former minister Mushtaq Bukhari, who was the face of the NC in the Poonch district, left the party over the issue. Although he has not joined the BJP yet, he is in touch with party leaders.