Congress Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha quits, sparks off buzz about link to Article 370
The Congress was among the handful of opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha to speak out against the NDA government’s proposal to scrap Article 370 that extends special status to Jammu and Kashmir and split J&K into two union territories
But the Congress effort to stop the proposals suffered a serious setback even before the Rajya Sabha convened on Monday morning when its senior lawmaker Bhubaneswar Kalita resigned from the party. Bhubaneswar Kalita was the Congress’s Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha, who issues whips to party lawmakers to ensure that they participate in parliamentary proceedings and vote according to the party line.
Kalita, who has been the president of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee between 2004 and 2014, had been feeling isolated within the party’s state unit for some time.
“I have resigned from the Rajya Sabha membership today. #Assam (sic),” Kalita tweeted soon after.
He did not cite any reasons for his exit, timing or his next party. But leaders of the BJP, which is believed to be in talks to induct him, suggested that Kalita was unhappy about the Congress’s stand on Article 370.
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An unsigned statement linked Kalita’s resignation to the Congress stand against the “public sentiment” in the country. Kalita refused to comment on the provocation for his resignation. “The resignation has been accepted. I will not analyse the reasons now, maybe tomorrow or day after, I will explain them to you,” he said, according to news agency ANI.
The Congress has described the government’s move to revoke Article 370 as a “black day” in the country’s constitutional history, which the party alleged, was being achieved by “mischievously misinterpreting” articles in the Constitution.
Senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram alleged that the Modi dispensation’s move amounted to “constitutional monstrosity” and the decision marks the “beginning of the disintegration of India if the government continues on this path”.
Flanked by leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and other opposition leaders, Chidambaram told reporters outside Parliament: “We anticipated a misadventure, but did not think in our wildest dreams that they will take such a catastrophic step.” “Today is a black day in the constitutional history of India,” he said.
Kalita’s exit has depleted the Congress’s strength in the Rajya Sabha to 46 members in the 245-seat House.