BENGALURU: Picking on senior Congress leader P Chidambaram remarks on autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday mounted a sharp offensive on the Congress for its leaders "shamelessly using the same language that separatists use in Kashmir and the language used in Pakistan".
- P Chidambaram seeks greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir
- PM Modi says Congress leaders 'shamelessly' using language of separatists
- PM is 'imagining a ghost and attacking it', says Chidambaram
"This is an insult to our brave soldiers," PM Modi said at a public meeting in Karnataka capital Bengaluru, linking Mr Chidambaram's remarks to the party's response to last year's surgical strikes at terrorist camps across the line of control in Pakistan.
"Now I can imagine why Congress leaders were angry after surgical strikes," he said, asking if the Congress, which was determined to politicise sacrifices of soldiers, could do any good for the country.
"Those in power till yesterday suddenly, take a u-turn and shamelessly raise their voice for Kashmir's azaadi," PM Modi said. "We will not compromise with the country's unity and integrity nor allow anyone else to," he said.
"The Prime Minister is imagining a ghost and attacking it," said the former Home Minister P Chidambaram in his rebuttal to PM Modi.
"It is obvious the Prime Minister has not read the whole answer to the question put to me on Jammu and Kashmir.. Those who criticise must read the whole answer and tell me, which word in the answer was wrong," Mr Chidambaram said in a statement.
Mr Chidambaram had pitched for greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, saying his interactions with people had led him to conclude that "when Kashmiris ask for azadi, mostly, I am not saying all... the overwhelming majority... want autonomy."
As the comment drew stinging criticism from the BJP and the NDA government, the Congress fielded its chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala to distance the party from Mr Chidambaram's statement.
An "opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the party", Mr Surjewala said. But he didn't spell out the party's stand, saying a panel led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that was looking into all issues in context of Kashmir.
The opposition National Conference, however, has supported the demand for "restoration of autonomy" and asked the government to end what it called its "muscular policy". At the National Conference delegates' conference that met today after 15 years, the National Conference also asked the centre to initiative "political dialogue".