Press Trust of india

Rana, Slathia arrive to rousing reception in Jammu

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Jammu: Thousands of supporters turned up at the Jammu Airport and Gandhi Nagar here on Saturday to welcome former MLAs Devender Singh Rana and S S Slathia who quit the National Conference (NC) and joined the BJP in Delhi earlier this week.

Traffic on the main road was suspended for over an hour around noon as the supporters of the two leaders waited with garlands and flower petals and danced on drum beats and raised slogans.

A procession was taken out as the two leaders travelled atop a decorated vehicle to Rana’s Gandhi Nagar residence. It took almost two hours to cover nearly eight km distance due to the supporters, including many members of the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities who came on their horses.

Rana had resigned from the basic membership of the NC along with former minister Slathia on October 10 and both the leaders joined BJP in Delhi the next day.

Among the supporters, many said that they were National Conference activists and supported the decision of Rana and Slathia.

“He (Rana) has never distinguished people based on religion and we are with him whether he is in NC or BJP,” Sarpanch Makhan from Udhampur said.

Choudhary Ali Mohammad, belonging to the Gujjar community, echoed Makhan and said they know Rana as a leader who doesn’t believe in the politics of religion and caste.

“He is the most popular leader of Jammu province and a person capable of the post of the chief minister. We hope BJP will accommodate him as per his stature and project him as a chief ministerial candidate of the party in the upcoming polls,” he said.

Narinder Kumar Sharma backed the decision of the two leaders to join BJP and said the grand welcome accorded to Rana and Slathia should open the eyes of those who said their parting ways with the National Conference would have no impact on the party in the Jammu region.

Ready to sacrifice anything for people of Jammu: Rana

Nearly a week after joining the BJP, former legislator Devender Singh Rana Saturday said the ‘Jammu declaration’, which is yet to take shape, forms the basis of his “political agenda” and he is ready to sacrifice anything for the people of Jammu region.

Rana also said he does not need to answer anyone or seek a certificate to prove his secular credentials. “My people know me very well and I know them as well.”

“I am grateful to the people including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians who have come from different parts of Jammu and showered their love on me…this should serve as a referendum for the Jammu declaration,” Rana, who quit the National Conference on October 10, told reporters at his residence after he was accorded a grand welcome on his return from Delhi.

Rana, younger brother of Union minister Jitendra Singh, had taken over the post of provincial president of NC in 2011 after relinquishing his office as political advisor to the then chief minister Omar Abdullah. He along with senior party colleague and former minister S S Slathia joined BJP in the Delhi on Monday.

“The ‘Jammu declaration’ is my political agenda. Some people ask what the Jammu declaration is and for them, I want to say it is a concept which is developing and whose base has been set up. Like the Gupkar declaration (an amalgam of various mainstream parties including NC and PDP who came together to seek restoration of Article 370) which is also a concept and the contours of which will be completed with consultations of the people,” he said.

Rana said a declaration cannot be formed by one man. “When Jammu declaration will be formed, it will be the political, social, economic and cultural narrative of the whole J&K. Jammu has equal right to speak for the whole of J&K and God willing, we will raise a voice full of energy.”

The BJP leader said his character will prove his credentials. “I do not need to answer anyone or seek a certificate from anyone. My people know me very well and I know them as well.”

Rana said he is ready to make any sacrifice for the people of Jammu region.

“The challenges and opportunities in J&K are enormous. We will try to deal with the challenges and make full use of opportunities for the welfare of the entire Jammu and Kashmir and Jammu region in particular,” he said.

Earlier, addressing his supporters, Rana said now the voice of J&K will come from Jammu which should get its “rightful place”.

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