In a major shift from the BJP's stand for scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the party's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has sought a debate on it and left the choice to people.
On Sunday, at the state's largest-ever political rally of 60,000 participants, Modi said here his party would abide by the people's verdict after the debate. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaigns for the abrogation of Article 370 in the Constitution that accords special status to the state.
Modi said there should be a debate on at least how the Article was being "used to shield corruption". He echoed the views of BJP president Rajnath Singh, who said the provision had been given emotional twist. "Some people have used secularism as a herbal pill to absolve themselves of the sins of corruption and bad governance; and in Jammu and Kashmit, Article 370 is the herbal pill to shield them from accountability," said Modi.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah was quick to rebut the statement. Just after the conclusion of the rally, he tweeted: "I challenge him or any of his minions to reproduce verbatim the Section of the Article that determines the J&K state subject law."
Modi said the separate-state concept bred separatism, which had benefited only 60 families, which his party wanted to make Jammu and Kashmir a super state instead of a separate state. "It's not the issue of Hindu or Muslim but why can't Omar Abdullah' sister, Sara, who is married to union minister Sachin Pilot, have same rights as Omar just because she is married outside the state?" said Modi.
Modi was refereeing to the earlier state law under which women stopped being state subject upon marrying outside the state. In 2001, the state high court quashed the law but is silent on whether or not the children of these women would have the right be state subject.
The BJP's prime ministerial candidate said the youth of Kashmir were being misled. "On Kashmir, we will move forward on the path shown by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The development of the state is possible only by jamhooriat (democracy), insaaniyat (humanity), and Kashmiriat," said Modi.