After a midnight swoop putting top political leadership under house detention amid mounting tension in Jammu and Kashmir, the government introduced a historic move in the Rajya Sabha with a resolution on Article 370 and a Bill to reorganise the state in two Union Territories.
It passed both easily in Parliament within 24 hours, the only delay in their passage being the spirited speeches by Opposition members who stood against the government`s move.
The two moves of the BJP-led NDA government were nullification of Article 370, which gave special powers to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the division of the state into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one.
The Upper House gave its nod to the resolution and the Bill with 125 votes in favour as compared to 61 against it, while the Lower House with 370 votes in favour and 70 against, a bold and far-reaching decision that seeks to redraw the map and future of a region at the centre of protracted militancy.
The Opposition stood divided in its reaction to the Centre’s sudden move to scrap Article 370 and bring in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 with parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the AIADMK and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) breaking ranks to come out in support of the government’s stunning move.
The parties which opposed the Bill were the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the DMK, the Left parties, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the MDMK.
Also, on expected lines, the parties with bearings in the Kashmir valley – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference – attacked the government over the development.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, charged the government with murdering the Constitution.
Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, said Article 370 cannot be removed through a resolution, but an amendment. MDMK leader Vaiko said the government had played with the sentiments of the people of Kashmir.
But it was passed in the Rajya Sabha with voice vote.
The Bill also faced a major attack from the Congress -- the biggest opposition party with 52 members -- in the Lok Sabha, but it finally got the approval of the House after over seven hours of discussion amid lack of unity in other opposition parties.
The Congress tried its best to confront but could not stop the treasury benches in passing Bills as it could not counter the BJP’s argument to repeal Article 370.
In the Lok Sabha also, the government’s move was supported by the BSP, AAP, BJD, YSR Congress Party and Bodoland People’s Front. The Trinamool Congress party staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha, saying it did not want to be part of the discussion of the Bill.
Despite Congress accusation against the BJP of taking the decision "for votes" and declaring the government`s move a "black day" in the constitutional history of India, they failed to stop the government from getting the resolution and the Bill through in the House.
India now has 28 states instead of 29.