BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was pulled up by Kashmir-based political parties and the Congress for his remarks on Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special and autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
At a public rally in Jammu on Sunday, Modi called for a debate on the Article 370 in the Parliament. Along with the construction of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, scrapping of Article 370 has been the staple of BJP’s election manifestos.
Modi had also said the Article 370 has been responsible for the lack of development in the state. In a series of tweets today, he defended his statement. Read More: BJP softens on Article 370, Modi seeks discussion on it
Currently, the state enjoys a special status under this article and has its own constitution and flag. At one point of time, it had its own prime minister and president.
In fact, pro-India political parties and many political experts have been criticising New Delhi for sowing the seeds of the raging insurgency by gradually eroding the special constitutional status of the state.
Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, former union home minister and patron of the largest Opposition party PDP, said Modi’s remarks showed his “lack of” constitutional knowledge”.
"Article 370 is permanent and cannot be scrapped. Even Parliament is not constitutionally mandated to review or scrap it," Sayeed said here.
National Conference National Conference leader Sheikh Mustafa Kamal claimed that Article 370 has been tampered with by all leaders in Delhi, whether in power or outside power, including Modi.
Reacting through his Twitter handle, chief minister Omar Abdullah contested Modi’s remarks.
"I challenge him or any of his minions to reproduce verbatim the section of Article 370 that determines the Jammu and Kashmir state subject law," he said.
Modi had said under Article 370, Omar's sister, who is married to Sachin Pilot, did not enjoy the same rights in the state as Omar did.
To this, Omar replied: "He very conveniently used me and my sister as examples to illustrate a point that has no bearing in truth. Either he lies or is ill-informed." Read More: Modi says Article 370 doesn't give women equal rights, Omar hits back
Kashmir CPI(M) leader MY Tarigami, who is also the convenor of Awami Mutahida Mahaz, Kashmir’s version of a Third Front, said “Modi seeking abrogation of Article 370 are not only unwarranted but totally unacceptable to the people of the state”.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, “Neither Kashmir’s nor India’s development has been restricted by Article 370. I don't have any problem with a debate. They (BJP) want a debate, might as well have it in the BJP. Modiji should also look at Article 371.”
Janata Dal-United leader KC Tyagi said the BJP and Modi are in the “habit of raising controversial issues”.
“This statement of Modi vindicates the decision of the JD-U to separate from the BJP and the NDA. Going to Jammu and opposing Article 370, isn't this communalizing politics there?” he said.
The BJP PM candidate, however, was unfazed and in a self-laudatory tone tweeted: “Glad that after my call for debate on Article 370, it is being widely debated among people & across TV, social media.”
“No one can ignore sufferings of the Kashmiri Pandits for so many years. We remain committed to working towards justice for the community,” he said in another tweet. The Kashmiri Hindus, called Pandits, had migrated to different parts of the country after the anti-India insurgency began in 1990.
“However, we need rational & focused debate not only on 370 but other issues relating to J&K, including suffering of sections of J&K society,” said another of his tweets.
His party also defended his statement on Article 370.
“Article 370 is a hindrance to the development of Jammu and Kashmir. It must be abrogated. It is because of Article 370 that there is no development in the state,” former BJP president Nitin Gadkari said.
“Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah have ruled Jammu and Kashmir for many years. The result has been backwardness and no development. There are no good hotels, IT companies, or educational universities in Kashmir. How will the youth of Kashmir get employment opportunities there? The development of Kashmir is only possible if people are allowed to invest there,” Gadkari added.
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