A Jammu and Kashmir Minister belonging to Congress has stoked a controversy by suggesting that Kashmir be granted "Azadi", remarks that embarassed his party which termed them as his personal view.
Addressing a rally at Bani in Kathua district on Sunday, Congress Minister for Health and Horticulture Sham Lal Sharma had raised the demand for making Jammu a separate state, giving union territory status to Ladakh and granting "Azadi" to Kashmir.
"Give freedom to Kashmir, that's more beneficial. Give separate statehood status to Jammu and make Ladakh a union territory. If this state has to be developed, this is the only solution", Sharma said in the presence of PCC chief Saifuddin Soz.
His remarks drew a sharp attack from state BJP which alleged they "tantamount to treason" and demanded his dismissal from the government and arrest.
In damage-control mode, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi on Monday described Sharma's remarks as his "personal view" and said the party's stand "is very clear--autonomy within the framework of the Indian Constitution".
The remarks by Sham Lal Sharma had made Soz and his senior party leaders uneasy at the rally. In fact, Soz had tried to initiate damage control and expressed his party's resolve to keep all the three regions of the state united to ensure equal and balanced development in all the regions.
"We are all answerable to AICC President Sonia Gandhi and what we say here be considered as the Congress word and we must speak along the party's line", Soz said.
Seeking to downplay Sharma's view, Singhvi told reporters in Delhi that "I can only describe it as a personal opinion (of Sharma). He was having a discussion at rally in his own home state and certainly this is his personal view".
"Some of the words which I have heard, I can either describe it as a metaphorical speak and should not be taken literally", he said adding "in any case, we do not accept any such allegations".
"There is no question of commenting on individuals' views. Congress stand is clear. It is for autonomy within the constitutional framework. Let us not visit the established axioms. It is dangerous to re-visit such axioms," party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said..
The state and Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma had said on Sunday that there should be a separate state of Jammu if there is talk of greater autonomy or self-rule for Kashmir.
"You need to come out of Kashmir-centric approach. I tell Congress that if you want autonomy or self-rule for Kashmir, then you need to separate Jammu as a state and declare Ladakh as a Union Territory," Sharma had told a public rally in Bani in the state.
BJP National Executive Member and former Pradesh President Nirmal Singh told reporters here that "Sharma has taken oath under the Constitution and his statement tantamounts to treason and therefore an FIR should be registered against him and he should be arrested forthwith".
After making such a statement Sharma has no locus standi to be in the ministry and he should be dismissed Singh said.