In what appear to be softening of the BJP's demand for scrapping Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, its PM candidate Narendra Modi has said the constitutional provision should be debated and people's verdict accepted.
It should be debated if the constitution provision had benefitted people or was being used as a shield by the corrupt, Modi said at a well-attended rally here on Sunday.
The BJP has always maintained that Article 370, which among other things allows the border state a separate constitution, is a hurdle in Jammu and Kashmir's integration with the country and encourages separatism.
"There should be a debate if the state has benefited from Article 370," said Modi, virtually kick-starting the campaign for next year's Lok Sabha election.
Similar views were echoed by his party chief Rajnath Singh who told the 'Lalkar' rally that if proved to be beneficial, his party would stand by the constitutional provision.
The concept of separate state bred separatism but the BJP wanted to make J&K a super state not a separate state, Modi said.
"Some people have used secularism as a herbal pill to absolve themselves of the sins of corruption and misgovernance. And in J-K, Article 370 is another herbal pill to shield them from accountability," he said.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah reacted sharply to Modi's speech. "I challenge him or any of his minions to reproduce verbatim the section of Art 370 that determines the J&K state subject law," Abdullah tweeted.
"If Omar (Abdullah) married outside Kashmir, his rights of being a citizen remain whereas his sister Sara loses the right for the same. Is this not discrimination against the women in the state?" he said. Abdullah's sister Sara is married to union minister Sachin Pilot, who is not from Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi was referring to a now-defunct law that said a woman would cease to be a Jammu and Kashmir subject on marrying a person from outside the state. The law was struck down by the high court in 2001 though it is silent on the rights of children born of such a marriage.
The BJP would carry forward the principles of "Insaniyat (humanity), Jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (composite secular Kashmiri culture)" in the state as envisioned by former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, he said.