PM Modi cites sacrifice of jawans to chide Congress, Chidambaram over Kashmir autonomy row
Modi’s sharp comments came a day after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram pitched for greater autonomy for the restive Jammu and Kashmir yet again.india Updated: Oct 30, 2017 08:27 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress on Sunday of “shamelessly lending its voice for Kashmir’s azadi”, saying it was an insult to the soldiers who died for the state.
His remarks came in response to Congress leader and former Union home minister P Chidambaram’s comments in poll-bound Gujarat on Saturday that “greater autonomy” should be provided to Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre appointed former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as its representative for dialogues with stakeholders in the state.
“All of a sudden, those who were in power till yesterday have taken a U-turn. Shamelessly, they are lending their voice for Kashmir’s azadi... using language used by the separatists in Kashmir (and) spoken by Pakistan,” Modi told BJP workers in Bengaluru.
“This is an insult to our soldiers,” he said, adding that thousands of jawans have sacrificed their lives for Kashmir. “This is the land of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and we will not allow any compromise on the unity and integrity of the country.”
Chidambaram had on Saturday talked about the issue of autonomy to the state — provided under Article 370 of the Constitution and which has been under attack from BJP amidst opposition from state parties and Congress.
Without naming Chidambaram, Modi said he was surprised that this was coming from “those who were in power at the Centre, those who were responsible for the country’s internal security and national security”, and added that Congress will have to give an answer for this remark.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s comments, Chidambaram on Sunday asked him and the BJP to read his statement before criticising it.
“It is obvious the PM has not read the whole answer to the question put to me on Jammu and Kashmir. Those who criticise must read the whole answer, and tell me which word in the answer was wrong. The PM is imagining a ghost and attacking it,” he said.
Congress, however, distanced itself from his remarks, saying an individual’s opinion was “not necessarily the opinion of the party”, and that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and “will always remain so unquestionably”.
Meanwhile, the National Conference held a delegates’ session on Sunday after 15 years and vowed to continue the struggle for the restoration of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir in its “original and pristine form”.
NC leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were present at the session.
Modi, who was on a day’s tour to various parts of Karnataka which goes to polls next year, also attacked opposition parties for their criticism of demonetisation and the push for digital transactions.
“The attacks against me are not because I have made any losses for the nation, but because I have caused losses to (the critics) and their agents,” he said.
Modi said demonetisation’s critics had not uttered a word about the 3 lakh shell companies that had come to light as a result of this move.
Highlighting the savings from direct transfer of benefits through Aadhaar linkage, the Prime Minister said the government had saved as much as Rs 57,000 crore, which, he said, used to “get stolen or go to middlemen”.
Referring to the railway track he launched in Bidar to Kalburgi, which had been initiated in 2000, he said it was a shame that a three-year project had taken close to 20 years.
He said this was because of the atakna, latakna aur bhatakna (stall and delay) style of the previous government. “Without discarding this style of functioning, there cannot progress.”
“Till now, Rs 9 lakh crore worth of stalled projects have been given a new lease of life,” he pointed out.
Work that was to cost Rs 1,000 crore now reached Rs 1 lakh crore because of delays, he said, adding, “This criminal negligence is because of the previous government. There was policy paralysis during that time because of which no work could get completed.”
Praising Bengaluru as the cradle of innovation, Modi called on the youth of to begin a clean cooking movement.
“Even the poor should have solar cooking ranges at cheap rates,” he said, adding that we should “innovate things that benefit younger generations”.
Expressing confidence over his BJP winning the Karnataka assembly elections in 2018, Modi said the state would be on the “path of development” after the polls, and that the people do not have faith in Congress ruling the state anymore.
“It seems like people of Karnataka are not ready to wait for the state polls any longer. Like other states, Karnataka too wants to be on the path of development,” he said.
Reacting to Modi’s comments, Karnataka chief minister Siddarmaiah questioned the Centre’s failure in delivering people-friendly measures it had promised.
Referring to the waiver of farmers’ loans announced by the state government, Siddaramaiah said no such initiative had been undertaken by the Centre. “Has the central government waived farmers’ loans? Has it provided drought relief? Has it managed to get back black money from abroad? Has it been able to provide 2 crore jobs per year to the youth? What has the central government done?”
Modi also said that because of his government’s Ujala (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All) scheme LED bulbs that earlier used to cost over Rs 350 are now available for Rs 40.
“Thanks to this, the middle class has saved around Rs 7,000 crore, apart from over Rs 14,000 crore in savings, thanks to reduction in electricity bills,” he said.
Modi said around 7,000 MW of electricity had been saved thanks to a change in approach through one scheme.
“It would cost Rs 35,000–40,000 crore to build a plant of that capacity. When you add this to the savings to the middle class, then the total savings comes to Rs 55,000–60,000 crore.”
Modi said the government had begun the world’s biggest renewable energy capacity expansion programme, with the aim of increasing the share of renewable energy in total production to 40% by 2030.
“We want to produce 175 gigawatt of renewable energy production by 2022,” Modi said.
Speaking on the government’s efforts to enhance the earnings of the poor, Modi said thanks to the Government e-Marketplace (GEM) portal, even the poor were able to market their products to governmental agencies, resulting not just in increased earnings for those registered but also in savings to the government.
“Earlier, only large entities could sell to the government, but now, even small enterprises can.”
At Ujire, he highlighted the need to tackle climate change and appealed to farmers to pledge to cut urea usage by half by 2022 and switch to drip irrigation to help conserve water.
Modi also called for increased cultivation of seaweed to help fisher-folk earn a livelihood throughout the year, as there was a lot of demand from the pharmaceutical industry.
“Seaweed can also be used by farmers to help improve soil health as it has a lot of water and nutrition,” he said.
Modi also called on the youth to improve unity in the country and to learn about all the regions of the country.
“Sometimes, we know more about Singapore than we do about (West) Bengal, more about Dubai than Dehradun,” Modi said, calling for a quiz competition for the youth to help improve knowledge about the country.
(With inputs from agencies)
First Published: Oct 29, 2017 17:14 IST