Article 370: BJP's stand softens, Narendra Modi seeks discussion

Written by Arun Sharma | Jammu | Updated: Dec 2 2013, 14:55pm hrs
Gujarat chief minister and BJP's prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha elections in India, Narendra Modi on Sunday called for a general discussion over Article 370 of the Indian constitution guaranteeing special status to Jammu Kashmir as to whether it has befitted the people of the state during the last 60 years.

It is and it will be a subject matter of discussion whether this provision of the Indian Constitution shall remain or not, but it is the need of time to discuss it in the context of peoples rights and their interests, Modi said. "At least, there should be discussion in Jammu Kashmir and the country whether Article 370 has benefited a common man in the state or not," he added while addressing the BJPs "Lalkar rally" attended by an over one lakh people at M A Stadium here this afternoon.

Despite numerous barricades raised by state government on movement of people to the rally venue from within Jammu city and its outskirts, it turned out to be the biggest ever political rally by a politician seen in Jammu during the last three decades. What assumed significance was that it was attended by a large number of Muslims especially Gujjars and Bakerwals as well.

Pointing out that while secularism has come handy to politicians in power at the Centre to escape responsibility and accountability, he said that Article 370 is another tool in their hand for hiding their failures in Jammu and Kashmir. The worse is that they not use it as their shield, but they have also given it a communal colour, Modi said, regretting that they were not prepared even to discuss it.

He also called upon the constitutional experts to at least discuss at to what extent this special provision of the Indian Constitution has benefitted the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In an apparent reference that it has done only harm to them, the BJP leader pointed out that even the laws including 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian Constitution implemented all over the country and on the basis of which Congress is now seeking votes in four states going to polls have not been made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir.

He regretted that those demanding autonomy for themselves were not prepared to empower panchayats and urban local bodies. He also criticised the state government for differentiating on the basis of gender and region.

Modi also had a dig on separatists in Kashmir, asking that their continuous chants of cession have benefited whom Except for 50 families in Kashmir, no one in the state has been benefited, he added.