- Several Congress leaders have come out in support of radical decision
- Abhishek Manu Singhvi admitted that the party had been outfoxed
- Rahul Gandhi has not yet made his views public on Article 370
The government's move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 has split the Congress down the middle. More and more prominent members of the leading opposition party are coming out in support of the radical decision, which also includes the state's bifurcation into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Lok Sabha lawmakers met with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi today before the Kashmir move was taken up in the lower house, in an attempt to present a stronger, united front.
Sources say Sonia Gandhi, presented with the options to support or oppose the move, said "We will oppose it and our opposition is based on the manner in which the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the state assembly, have not been consulted."
On Monday, the bill to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories sailed through Rajya Sabha, where the government is short of a majority, with several opposition parties walking out and others siding with the government, like Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal, Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress, N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party and Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party.
A senior Congress leader, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, admitted yesterday that the party had been outfoxed. "We have been politically outwitted as we are among four or five parties alone that have opposed it. I wouldn't say we didn't know about it because I think everybody in our party, from Ghulam Nabi Azad to P Chidambaram, have been talking about it for the last one week. It was the closest to an open secret, but obviously one could not be sure. But yes we are now in a very small number of parties which argued and opposed and voted against it, but a democracy is a democracy... you have to go by the numbers," Mr Singhvi told NDTV.
Rahul Gandhi, who quit as Congress president in May owning the party's second straight national election debacle, has not made his view public. Asked about the divide within the ranks and the possibility of an emergency meet of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to thrash it out, Rahul Gandhi told NDTV he "cannot call a meeting as he is no more Congress president".
While the party's Rajya Sabha members like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal blasted the move in the house, calling it "murder of democracy", and Congress MPs in Lok Sabha staged a walkout led by Sonia Gandhi, outside parliament several Congress leaders came out in support of it, calling it their "personal" view.
"My Personal Point of View : I support abrogation of Art 370 (as opening words say it's temporary) but Only and Only in accordance with provisions and methodology provided by the Constitution of India which mandates consent of J&K State Assembly -any other way is Unconstitutional," tweeted Jaiveer Shergill.
Taking a neutral stand, Mumbai Congress leader Milind Deora tweeted: "Very unfortunate that Article 370 is being converted into a liberal vs conservative debate. Parties should put aside ideological fixations and debate what's best for India's sovereignty and federalism, peace in J and K, jobs for Kashmiri youth and justice for Kashmiri Pandits."
Deepender Hooda, another Congress leader, tweeted: "My personal view is that there isn't a need to have Article 370 in the 21st century. The move is not only in the interest of the country but also for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is the responsibility of the government to implement the move in a peaceful environment."
Yesterday, the Congress's chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita quit the party and the Rajya Sabha calling the Congress stand on Kashmir "suicide" and "against the mood and emotions of the nation". He said in a statement: "The Congress has asked me to issue a whip on the Kashmir issue. But the truth is that the mood of the nation has completely changed and this whip is against the public sentiment across the country....It seems the Congress is committing suicide with this ideology and I don't want to be part of this."
Congress veteran Janardhan Dwivedi said a historic blunder had been remedied. "My mentor Ram Manohar Lohia was against Article 370 from the start.... My personal view is that this is a matter of national satisfaction. A mistake made during independence has been corrected, even if belatedly," Janardhan Dwivedi told news agency ANI.
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