Seeking to woo the Gujjar community, veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad Thursday promised the community exclusive privileges, including free medical treatment, if the Congress is voted to power in the Centre.
Azad, who was campaigning for the Congress' Vikramaditya Singh in the Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha seat, also vowed free education up to Class 12 for students of the Gujjar community in the state.
On poll campaign trail for Singh, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister made the promises while touring various areas like Chatroo and Bunjwah of Chenab valley comprising Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban, having a significant Gujjar population.
Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir happen to be Muslims.
Stating that the Gujjar community has an important role to play in the society, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said, "But the Bharatiya Janata Party unfortunately neglected them since 2014.
Azad also said the Congress will make new strict laws so that shocking incidents like Kathua rape and murder case is not repeated in the state.
The victim in the Kathua rape and murder case was an eight-year-old girl belonging to the nomadic Muslim Bakarwal community, who claim a common ancestry with Gujjars.
Stating that the Congress believed in development, Azad made a slew of promises to build more schools, hospitals, colleges and other institutions in the area.
Vikramaditya Singh is the elder son of veteran Congress leader Karan Singh and is pitted against Union minister Jitendra Singh in the constituency, the polling for which is slated to be held on April 18 in the second phase.
Azad said the people of Chenab valley hold the key to power and appealed to them to "remain steadfast and united in nipping the conspiracies being hatched by outsiders to divide them".
He urged the people of Chenab valley to vote "wisely and decisively" to start the development process and "maintain their grip on the levers of power in the state".
Azad asserted that a "united and forceful voice" arising from the region would earn its people "respect and dignity in the politico-governance structure of the state".
I am sure the people of Chenab valley will display desired unity and strength to march on the journey of politico-economic empowerment and progress, said Azad.
"At this critical juncture, it is incumbent upon the people to cast their vote with sagacity and maturity to maintain their relevance and status on the political landscape of the state, he added.
Urging the people to vote in favour of the Congress in huge numbers, he said, It is the Congress party alone which has allowed an opportunity to the people of this backward and remote region to carve out space for themselves in the democratic order of the state.
The Congress has given a sense of identity to the people of Chenab valley and this is duly acknowledged by the visionary and farsighted people of this region, he said.