Arun Jaitley clearly articulated the BJP's position on complex issues of Article 370, Article 35A and the special status of Jammu & Kashmir by giving the historical perspective.
BJP stalwart and former finance minister Arun Jaitley was extremely active on social media following the Modi government’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu & Kashmir before he was hospitalised in AIIMS on August 9. Despite undergoing treatment for skin cancer, he kept articulating the party’s position on social media by breaking it down in simple terms and giving the historical perspecive in a chronological order while laying the blame on the Congress party and the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was the first BJP leader to directly blame the three political families for taking political advantage of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir. In an article written in March this year, he blamed two Srinagar based political families and one based in New Delhi, an indirect reference to Nehru-Gandhi family in Delhi and Abdullah and Mufti families in the state. The term was later frequently used by home minister Amit Shah in Parliament during the debate on the Kashmir issue.
Former finance minister, who also held defence portfolio twice during PM Modi’s first term, blamed the policies of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for creating the mess in the state. “The historic blunders of special status under Article 370 and Article 35A had cost the country both politically and financially. Today, when history is being re-written, it has given a verdict that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s vision on Kashmir was the correct one and Panditji’s dream solution has proved to be a failure,” Jaitley had said after Modi government scrapped the special status of Jammu & Kashmir early this month.
Complete integration of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of the country was long-term agenda of his party. And Jaitley was well aware about his party’s political objective and the difficult ground realities of Indian politics. Compulsions of a coalition government during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure and lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha during Prime Minister Modi’s first term gave the impression that the BJP’s resolve to scrap the special status of Jammu & Kashmir was only meant to be printed in the party’s election manifestoes ahead of elections.
However, the big day for his party came early this month when home minister Amit Shah moved two bills and two resolutions to end the special status of Jammu & Kashmir and divide the state into two Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. A masterstroke by the BJP government to end the long simmering separatism and take direct control of the state’s administration.
The second Modi win by an even greater majority allowed his party to implement one of its core agenda. And leaders like Arun Jaitley and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj were extremely happy to see it implemented during their lifetime as both of them were battling with health problems for quite sometime.
“The popular belief that the promise BJP made on Article 370 is an unachievable slogan has been proved wrong. So strong is the public mood in support of the new Kashmir policy of the Government that several opposition parties had succumbed to the public opinion,” Jaitley had said while acknowledging the importance of support of other non-NDA parties in the Rajya Sabha.
“For the Rajya Sabha to approve this decision by a two-third majority goes beyond anyone’s imagination,” Jaitley had said, who had seen an united opposition blocking several important bills in the Rajya Sabha, including a bill to ban Triple during PM Modi’s first tenure Talaq when he was leader of the House.
Jaitley always blamed the special status of J&K for fueling separatism in the state. He also blamed Prime Minister Nehru for trusting National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah who used the opportunity to create his own political dynasty in the state that ruled the state for three generations.
“Kashmir, for the last 72 years, has been the unfinished agenda of Pakistan. Panditji wrongly assessed the situation. He volunteered a plebiscite and allowed UN to discuss the issue. He took a decision trusting Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah to head the State. He then lost trust in Sheikh Sahab in 1953 and jailed him. The Sheikh had converted the State into a personal kingdom,” Jaitley had written in an article on August 6.
“The decision to reverse the situation created by Panditji needed clarity, vision and determination. It also needed political courage. The Prime Minister has created history through his absolute clarity and determination,” Jaitley had said while lauding Prime Minister Modi.
Being the former finance minister of the country, who steered the country’s economy between 2014-19 and oversaw implementation of big-ticket reforms like GST, Jaitley was optimistic that scrapping the special status will lead to the economic development of the state.
Jaitley was of the view that the special status of Jammu & Kashmir did not permit outsiders to settle in Jammu & Kashmir or own a property and eventually it deprived the state of investments and economic dynamism.
“Today, there are no industries, hardly any private sector hospital, no credible educational institution set up by the private sector,” he lamented the lack of development in Jammu & Kashmir due to the special status.
“India’s most beautiful State has not had investments from even the hotel chains. Consequently, there are no new jobs for the local people, no revenue for the State. This gave rise to frustration in all regions of the State,” he had said while talking about the lack of investment opportunities in the state where tourism was the main business activity, adding that now any Indian citizen could go and settle in Jammu & Kashmir, make investments and create jobs for development.