Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah today attacked opposition parties - singling out the Congress - for not doing enough to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the mainstream for over 70 years.
While addressing a rally in Kolhapur in Maharashtra, where assembly elections will be held on October 21, Mr Shah credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ability to stomach risks for the country's development and gave as example the Modi government's move to scrap special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and divide the state into two Union Territories.
"After people of the country and Maharashtra voted him for a second term, Modi ji did something for which the entire country had been waiting for 70 years. He abrogated Article 370 on August 5 and joined Jammu and Kashmir with the country's mainstream," Mr Shah said, drawing a loud applause from the crowd.
Mr Shah said that since the days of the Jan Sangh or the BJP's predecessor, the country has been hearing that there cannot be two prime ministers or two constitutions. "But it was the Congress which, by imposing Article 370, stopped the process of integrating Jammu and Kashmir with India for several years," Mr Shah said, news agency Press Trust of India reported. "As a result, thousands of our people lost their lives to terrorism, but still there was no intention of any party to remove Article 370."
"Several governments came and went, several prime ministers came and went. No one had the courage to abrogate Article 370. But the man with the 56-inch chest scrapped it in one go," Mr Shah said.
The BJP has taken up the move to scrap the special status to Jammu and Kashmir as one of the key themes in the coming round of the state elections.
The Congress had opposed the government's move - announced in parliament on August 5 - maintaining that Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India "as one State" and no government has the power to change its status or divide it or reduce any part of it to a Union Territory.
"If you dare, take a clear stance and come forward," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today while addressing a rally in Maharashtra's Jalgaon.
Mr Shah then trained his sight at the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party alliance. "During 15 years of the Congress-NCP regime, the state's ranking came below 15. But during the present (Devendra) Fadnavis government, the state has managed to gain its ranking and in all fields, the state is in the first five," Mr Shah said.
More than five months after he quit the Congress chief's post, Rahul Gandhi made his first public appearance at Maharashtra's Latur today and attacked the government on the state of the economy. "Auto sector, textile sector, diamond industry is finished but you don't see anything in media. Modi doesn't speak about this at all. This is highest unemployment in 40 years," he said at the election rally at Ausa in Latur district.
The ruling BJP and its ally Shiv Sena will fight together in the election to the 288-member Maharashtra assembly. They fought separately in the 2014 state election. The BJP won 122 seats in Maharashtra in 2014; the Shiv Sena took home 63 seats.