In a difference of opinion with the BJP's stand on Article 35A, Jammu and Kashmir BJP MLA Gagan Bhagat on Saturday warned that scrapping the constitutional provision with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha election could lead to serious consequences and alleged the party of wanting to take seats by sacrificing the state.
Speaking to reporters, Bhagat said, "Article 35A is beneficial for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. When this article is scrapped nobody will go to Kashmir, they will only attack the people of Jammu. BJP wants to take seats by sacrificing J&K."
Bhagat, a member of Legislative Assembly from RS Pura constituency, said he had launched a campaign to mobilise public support to safeguard Articles 370 and 35A, which give special rights and privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. His remarks found mention on former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's Twitter handle today, where she said it was "heartening" that BJP leaders were coming out in support of Article 35-A.
"Today I feel relieved that regardless of political views or affiliations, we are all on the same page as far as protecting the special status of J-K is concerned," Mufti wrote.
In July, Bhagat found himself in trouble after the BJP state disciplinary committee recommended his suspension from the party for three months. It also proposed to restrain him from holding official position in the party for one year. The disciplinary action against Bhagat was taken after an ex-serviceman alleged that the BJP leader had abducted his daughter, a charge the legislator and the woman have denied.
However, Bhagat's estranged wife Monika Sharma publicly accused him of having an extra-marital affair with the woman.
Describing Articles 370 and 35A as "shields", Bhagat said the people in Kashmir Valley were aware of the "pros and cons" of the provision and were "fighting our battle as well".
"If Article 35A is tinkered with, the day will not be far when the youth of Jammu will also pick up guns and stones. The BJP is selling dreams and wants to sacrifice the interests of Jammu to achieve its goal of 300 plus (seats) in the upcoming parliamentary elections," said the disgruntled BJP leader.
A debate over continuing the constitutional provisions has picked up in recent months after several pleas were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of Article 35A, which permits only the subjects of Jammu and Kashmir to buy property in the state.
On August 6, the court said a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas should be referred to a five-judge Constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of a basic structure of the Constitution. The BJP legislator said the Dogras will face the brunt if Article 35A goes.
"We will lose everything - our identity, jobs, business and our land to outsiders. We will be left with no option but to either pick up the gun or stones for our rights." He claimed that if Article 35A is "removed, the BJP will vanish from the state".
"They are not concerned about the people or eyeing the two parliament seats of Jammu and Kashmir... They want to sacrifice the interests of Jammu to achieve their goal of 300 plus in the next year's parliamentary elections," he claimed. He accused the BJP leadership of using proxies to revoke Article 370 and Article 35A through the Supreme Court.
"BJP is not the well-wisher of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They are anti-people and anti-scheduled caste. They are playing politics over the vital issues concerning the state," he said. The BJP leader said the Kashmiri youth did not pick up the gun in one day. "They are being compelled as they are subjected to arrest and torture." If terrorism spreads to Jammu, he said, the BJP would be responsible.
Referring to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's campaign against people from outside the state, he said a similar situation could develop in Jammu and Kashmir. "If we will not raise our voice today, there will be a Dogra Andoloan like Navnirman Sena's (in Maharashtra) in near future," Bhagat said. He also dismissed suggestions that he was planning to leave the BJP.
"Why should I leave the party. I am speaking the truth and if they have any problem, let them take action against me. I will not compromise with the rights of people."