Political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir have reacted sharply to the BJP's manifesto where the party has reiterated its stand on scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution that grants special status to the state. The contentious issue has, in the past as well, evoked similar reactions from the state's leaders.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in a scathing response, said that any attempt to repeal the special status would have severe repercussions in the region.
"So my warning to the BJP is to stop playing with fire. Jammu and Kashmir is already sitting on a powder keg. If the BJP does not stop making such statements and give up such intentions (about Article 370), it will not only burn the state but the entire region," the Peoples Democratic Party president said.
A petition filed in the Delhi High Court has sought a directive to the Election Commission banning National Conference leaders Farooq and Omar Abdullah as well as Ms Mufti from contesting the national elections, starting Thursday. The petitioner said the statements of these leaders are "against the Indian constitution".
Ms Mufti responded to this by saying: "Why waste time in court? Wait for the BJP to scrap Article 370. It will automatically debar us from fighting elections as the Indian Constitution won't be applicable to the state anymore."
Article 35A, made a part of the constitution by a 1954 presidential order, defines the term "permanent resident" and gives special rights and privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and bars outsiders from acquiring immovable property there. Article 370 is an extension of Article 35A, which allows the state its own constitution, flag and the right to handle its own laws except on matters that impact national security.
Ms Mufti, a former alliance partner of the BJP, has issued multiple warnings to the centre each time the BJP broached the subject.
National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, her political rival in the state, echoed this by saying that the abrogation of Article 370 would pave the way for the state to gain "freedom". "If you do that (repeal Article 370), the accession will also not stand. I think this is the wish of Almighty, we will get freedom from them," he said.
His son, Omar Abdullah, took a swipe at State Governor Satya Pal Malik, who had dispelled the concerns of political parties over the issue. "Recently, the J&K governor claimed there was no threat to Art 370 & 35A and that parties like mine were only using them to drum up fear in the elections. I hope his colleagues in the BJP send him a copy of their manifesto," he tweeted.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh hit back at the leaders, citing a controversial statement by Omar Abdullah that his party will bring back a separate Prime Minister and President for Jammu and Kashmir -- something that the state had bargained for in 1947. "If someone talks about a separate Prime Minister for Jammu and Kashmir, we will have no option other than to abolish Article 370 and Article 35A," Mr Singh was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
The BJP, in its manifesto, said: "We reiterate our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370. We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state".