Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar
New Delhi: A furious war of words has erupted over Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, after BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi called for a debate on the issue.
Partied across the political spectrum have come out strongly against Modi and termed hiscomments as “unacceptable”. Addressing his first rally in Jammu after being named the BJP`s Prime Ministerial candidate, Modi had said his party wanted a discussion on various aspects of the constitutional provision.
Meanwhile, BJP leader UMA Bharti has supported Modi`s stance, saying there must be a debate on Article 370.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah contested Modi’s remarks. He tweeted: "I challenge him or any of his minions to reproduce verbatim the section of Article 370 that determines the Jammu and Kashmir state subject law."
Omar’s father and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said even if Narendra Modi becomes prime minister for "ten terms" he will not be able to repeal Article 370 of the constitution.
"Even if Modi becomes PM for ten times, he will not be able to do away with Article 370. You talk of debate, BJP does not indulge in any debate," Farooq told reporters in New Delhi.
The Congress has also come out strongly against Modi’s remarks.
"The manner they speak about Article 370 and Article 371 makes me conclude that they neither read the Constitution of India nor they have cared about detail....
They (Modi`s remark) "completely reveal their (BJP`s) doublespeak. 10 years ago, five years ago, one year ago you would hear BJP talking about abrogating Article 370. Now they are talking about debate on Article 370," party spokesman Manish Tewari said.
Legal experts are divided on the issue with the majority view being that Article 370 can’t be abrogated as it formed the basis on J&K’s accession to the Indian union.
However, the BJP was caught in a catch-22 situation over the issue as the party has been demanding that the provision giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir should be abrogated.
Post-Modi’s comment, the party rejected claims of "softening" its stand on Article 370 but was supportive of Narendra Modi`s demand for a "rational" debate on the matter.
Leaders of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj said the party has not softened on the issue and Modi has only said what Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had earlier stated.
"It would be incorrect for anyone to interpret BJP`s challenge for a debate on this issue as a softening of stand on Article 370," Jaitley said.
“Article 370 is a hindrance to the development of Jammu and Kashmir. It must be abrogated. It is because of Article 370 that there is no development in the state,” former BJP president Nitin Gadkari said.
Despite all the criticism and trepidation, Modi has remained unfazed. He tweeted: “Glad that after my call for debate on Article 370, it is being widely debated among people & across TV, social media.”
“However, we need rational & focused debate not only on 370 but other issues relating to J&K, including suffering of sections of J&K society”, another tweet said.
Clearly, Modi has succeeded in bring the arch lights back on the contentious issue. The ongoing debate will throw up uncomfortable questions for all the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir, the perfect climate for the challenger to thrive.