No dilution in BJP stand on Art 370, says Jaitley

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New Delhi: Weeks after Narendra Modi advocated a debate on Article 370, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley today said there is no dilution of party stand that the provision which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir should be scrapped.

He said a debate was needed to assess whether it has caused harm or provided benefits.

Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said the Article 370 is the root cause of the feeling of separatism in Kashmir valley and BJP wanted that there must be a debate over its profits and loss.

“We want a historical assessment of the Article. Whether it has caused benefits or harm. It is our misfortune that when a leader of our party says its impact should be evaluated, our friends in media call it a dilution of our stand and we are ready to reassess it,” he said at a conference on Article 370 here.

Modi, while addressing a rally in Jammu last month, had said there should be a debate on Article 370. This was seen as a bit of softening in BJP’s hard stand that the Article should be completely abrogated.

Recognising that repealing the Article involves legal complications, Modi said its impact, however, can be “diluted into extinction”. He did not elaborate.

“One day, this Article will have to go. There are so many legal complications involved in repealing it that it depends on political thought. Ideally, it should be deleted because it was a temporary, transitory provision… The government still has flexibility to dilute it. A large part of the impact of Article 370 can be diluted into extinction,” he said.

Asked by PTI later if his party still stands for its repeal, Jaitley replied, “It always does”.

Questioned why then BJP wants a debate, he said, “So that we can tell you why it should be repealed”.

Jaitley said the debate over the Article 370 has been “politically subverted” and BJP’s critics have linked it with the issues of Hindu-Muslim and secular-non-secular.

“We are alone in asking for its repeal but it’s a splendid isolation because I have no doubt that a very large part of India’s public opinion is in agreement with us,” he said.

Warning that there is an attempt to weaken political and constitutional relations the state has with rest of the country, he said the separate or special status, which the Article gives to J&K, has travelled in the direction of separatism since its inception.

“National Conference (which rules the state) demand pre-1953 status which means separate flag, separate constitution, Prime Minister, permit system (for outsiders)…

So the relationship between the Centre and the state loosened.

PDP goes a step further and talk of self-rule.

“So there is a separate status, second is pre-1953 status and the third is ‘Self Rule’. The fourth step is ‘Azadi’ (independence) which separatists want.

“Behind all these thoughts, the idea is to loosen the constitutional and political relationship,” he said.

He also mocked at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ways of dealing with Kashmir issue, saying the PM’s Working Group on J&K dealing with the Centre-state relation submitted its report without meeting once as its head Justice (retd) Saghir Ahmad was too sick.

Jaitley took potshots at Singh for his assertion during his recent press conference that India and Pakistan had almost clinched a deal on Kashmir, wondering if the deal offered solutions which were totally at variance with India’s stated position

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the Article has been used by the ruling class to deny benefits of progressive laws to the people whether it is the RTI Act or Panchayati Raj.

Jawahar Lal Nehru had said the Article will gradually erode and the time had come to remove it, she said.

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