Maintaining that BJP stood for abrogation of Article 370 in line with Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's views, Union minister Jitendra Singh has said that contentious issues in Jammu and Kashmir have been put on the back-burner keeping in mind the "coalition dharma" with its ally PDP.
In an interview to PTI on matters pertaining to the state, Singh spoke on a host of issues, but preferred to downplay controversial matters, including withdrawal of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
58-year-old Singh, a doctor-turned-politician who was a surprise choice for the powerful portfolio of minister of state in Prime Minister's Office, also spoke about the demand for rehabilitation of 60,000 displaced Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir Valley with "respect and safety".
Mincing no words, Singh said, "I will not be a hypocrite.
There is no reason to be hypocritical. I belong to a party which has followed a particular ideology with conviction and against all odds. We never thought or imagined we would ever come to power, either in Delhi and least of all in J-K."
Singh, who also holds independent charge of the ministry of development of northeastern region, added, "We were either in agitation mode or protesting... Because it was given to us to uphold the flag of nationalism, uphold the flag of federalism."
On being part of an alliance government in the state, he said, "One thing is very clear, that we are in coalition in J-K, but we have ideological differences. We have to accept that. And that is very true."
Singh said he had grown up in politics understanding the ideology of Mukherjee, who favoured "ek nishan, ek vidhan, ek pradhan" ('one flag, one Constitution, one leader').
"So, how can we get away from that truth, how can we get away from our legacy and how can we get away from our birth," he said.
Singh said that while BJP as a party stands by all the ideological principles it has espoused since its creation, "wherever there is a coalition, the agenda is based on mutual acceptance".
Alliances, he said, are entered into "on the principle of mutual coexistence in order to serve ourselves and offer ourselves to the people and, therefore, when tomorrow we are in full majority, the ideological issues will also be taken up".
He said the party has not given up its stand on any of the ideological issues, including abrogation of Article 370. "But as they say in English, we have agreed to disagree on certain issues and at the same time agreed to agree.
"So, instead of raising contentious issues in a coalition, which is not in keeping with the coalition dharma, we have chosen to concentrate on dedicating ourselves to the development agenda which is the Common Minimum Programme (CMP)," the Union minister said.
After taking over as the minister in May last year, Singh had stoked a controversy when he said that the Narendra Modi government was open to a debate on the merits and demerits of Article 370 for J-K and would make efforts to "convince" the "unconvinced" by holding contact programmes with every section of society in the state.
He had later retracted the statement, which drew flak from Opposition parties and various stakeholders.
On the issue of return of Kashmiri Pandits, Singh said that the Valley is incomplete without them.
"There should not be any doubt that Kashmiri Pandits belong to Kashmir Valley. The Valley is incomplete without them. The culture, the civilisation of Kashmir is incomplete without them.
"Those who say or feel that they should not return are actually doing great disservice to the cause of Kashmir. But the return of the Kashmiri Pandits has to be with respect and with security. It has to be a safe and respectable return," he said.
The Union minister said it is the responsibility of the government and society in general to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits can go back to their homes, which they had to leave in the most unfortunate circumstances.
"So, we owe it to them that they go back safely and respectably," he said.
Asked about PDP's support in this regard, he said they have "assured us that they are also in favour of the return of Kashmiri Pandits".
Singh, who is a Lok Sabha MP from J-K's Udhampur seat, said that the issue of anti-national voices being raised by separatists in the state was a "challenging" one.
"It is indeed a challenging affair. Wherever there is a voice which tends to be raised against Indian nationalism, we have expressed our concern to our (coalition) partner.
"We have been assured that the government there would take appropriate steps to curtail these things, be it the putting up of Pakistani flags or things like that. I am sure and I hope that they would live up to this promise and expectation," he said.