The last Dogra monarch Maharaja Hari Singh is emerging as a new rallying point in Jammu, with both the Congress and the BJP pushing for declaration of a State holiday on his 125th birth anniversary on September 23.Congress Member Parliament (MP) Karan Singh, who is the son of the late Dogra king, on September 20 said there was a strong demand to declare the birthday of the Maharaja as a public holiday, and made an appeal to Governor Satya Pal Malik.“It is due to Maharaja Hari Singh that J&K became a part of India when he signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. Apart from that, he was a progressive and far sighted ruler who instituted many social and economic reforms. For example, as far back as 1929 he had declared all temples in the State to be open for Dalits. I urge the Governor to declare this day as a pubic holiday,” said Mr. Singh.Mr. Singh’s two sons, in the past, had moved a resolution in the State’s Legislative Council on the issue. However, J&K’s main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have been averse to the idea. Both the parties accuse the Maharaja of “anti-Muslims measures” and blame him for the killing of 22 civilians in Srinagar on July 13, 1931 outside the Srinagar Central Jail in an incident of firing. In fact, to commemorate the “sacrifices” of the 22 civilians, J&K observes a State holiday on July 13 every year.The BJP is equally supporting the initiative. The BJP’s new initiative, ‘Jan Jagran Abhiban’, will see the party hosting a number of rallies in the Jammu and Kashmir regions to highlight “the contribution of the Maharaja to the State”.“We expect senior BJP leaders to arrive in Jammu on September 22 during a Jan Jagran Abhiman rally on eve of the Maharaja’s birthday. The leaders will pay tributes to the Maharaja on the occasion. An exhibition will also be held,” said BJP leader Thakur Narayan Singh.The Jammu Bar Association has also thrown its weight behind the case for declaring a State holiday in J&K.