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Wed. Sep 28th, 2022
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NEW DELHI: As the chances of assembly election in the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir grow brighter, the prominent political parties have started taking positions on the burning issues, particularly Article 370 of the Constitution which was nullified by Parliament in August 2019.
The issue has come into spotlight because of two important developments which took place last month – firstly, the third anniversary of the nullification of the two Acts on August 3 and, secondly, the resignation of veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who belongs to the UT, from the party on August 26.
Basically there are three main demands of the political parties – reinstatement of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, holding of assembly election and restoration of Article 370.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah have reiterated a number of times the fulfilment of first two demands – restoration of statehood and holding of assembly election after the completion of the delimitation exercise.
In such a situation, restoration of Article 370 remains the most contentious issue in the UT.
The orders of the Delimitation Commission came into effect on May 20. The Hindu-majority Jammu region has got 43 seats while the Muslim majority Kashmir region has got 47 taking the total number of assembly seats to 90, up from the current tally of 83.
The regional parties have been demanding the holding of election before the onset of winters. However, with no signs of any activity from the government side, it is being speculated that the election would be held next year.
With the BJP being against the restoration of Article 370 in any circumstances, this is how the other key players are placed vis-a-vis the now nullified controversial laws.
The Congress has skirted the question of restoration of Articles 370. It has limited itself to demanding restoration of statehood and holding of assembly election.
In fact, the Congress has so far shied away from taking a clear stand on Article 370 ever since it was nullified by the Rajya Sabha on August 5, 2019. This may be because of the general perception which is believed to be in favour of the Modi government’s move on the controversial article of the Constitution.
It took 24 hours for Rahul Gandhi to criticise the Centre for scrapping the special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
On August 6, 2019, he tweeted and said, “National integration isn’t furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land. This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security.”
On the same day, the Congress’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), adopted a resolution opposing the “manner in which” the Modi government nullified Article 370.
The resolution said, “The CWC deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution. Every principle of Constitutional law, States’ rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated.”
It further said Article 370 was conceived and crafted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and BR Ambedkar, assisted by N Gopalaswamy Iyengar and VP Menon. “Article 370 is the Constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between the State of Jammu & Kashmir and India. It deserved to be honoured until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution of India.”
The official stand of the Congress on Article 370 remained as it was on August 6, 2019 till senior party leader Digvijaya Singh created a controversy by his statement. In a Clubhouse chat, which was leaked in June, he was reported to have said: “The decision of revoking Article 370 and reducing the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir is an extremely sad decision. And the Congress party would certainly have to have a relook into this issue.”
This created a huge uproar. The Congress was forced to clarify its stand on the controversial issue. Distancing itself from Singh’s statement, the party asked its leaders to follow its official stand on the nullification of Article 370.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “The Congress party has clearly stated its position on Jammu and Kashmir, in its resolution of August 6, 2019, of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). This is the only official stance of the party. I urge and request all senior leaders to refer to the same.”
A year later on August 10, 2021, Rahul Gandhi paid a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir. There he demanded the restoration of full statehood to the UT. However, he evaded mentioning the contentious Article 370.
While inaugurating a new party office in Srinagar, Rahul Gandhi said the Congress demanded the restoration of full statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and revival of the democratic process of elections there.
Ghulam Nabi Azad
After quitting the Congress, which he had been a member of for 50 years, Azad held his first public meeting at Jammu on September 4 and announced that the people would give a name to his political party. In his second public meeting held in Baramulla on September 11, he said the name of the party would be announced in 10 days.
However, more importantly, he delved deep into the question of restoration of Article 370. While doing so, he reiterated what he had maintained as a Congress leader.
Azad said the political parties which claimed to be struggling for restoration of the UT’s special status were chasing votes rather than an achievable goal.
He recalled how, as the then leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, he openly voted against the bill (to nullify Articles 370 and 35A) in Parliament. But some people were creating a false narrative for vote politics. “This is deception designed to provoke people into agitation and get them killed. So long as I am alive, I will fight against falsehood. You will have to kill me if you want to silence me,” he said.
Azad further said, “I will only talk about things that are possible and achievable,” and added that the article can be restored only if a political party has 350 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 175 in the Rajya Sabha.
The former J&K chief minister’s stand on Article 370 has been consistent. PM Modi had convened an all-party meeting in New Delhi on June 24, 2021 in which he assured early delimitation followed by assembly elections and statehood at an appropriate time.
Subsequently, Azad requested the central government to implement the assurances given by PM Modi and Shah to the Jammu and Kashmir leaders in “short-term” as it will benefit the people. He was obviously referring to the restoration of full statehood and holding elections after delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Azad desisted from broaching the issue of Article 370.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
Former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP has been demanding restoration of Article 370. PDP workers, led by Mufti, staged a protest in Srinagar on August 5, the third anniversary of revocation of special status to J&K.
Calling it a black day, Mehbooba said: “The BJP will remove the Constitution of the country in the coming time and make it a religious nation. The flag that you hoist with pride will be changed to the bhagwa (saffron) flag. If you still do not wake up, everything will be destroyed. They will change the Constitution in the same way that they snatched the flag and Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.”
She also said, “But we pledge, we will not only take back our flag but our Constitution as well, but also we will compel the government to solve the issue of Kashmir for which numerous people have sacrificed their lives.”
On Azad’s stand over Article 370, Mufti said it was his personal opinion. She noted that the Congress had raised its voice against the British and stopped them. Similarly, there were voices in J&K who believed that 370 would be reinstated and this would be resolved, she added.
National Conference (NC)
Besides PDP, former CM Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference has been demanding restoration of Article 370.
Former J&K CM and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah reiterated that the party would continue the struggle to challenge the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A.

In a tweet on August 5, Omar said, “We will continue our peaceful struggle using all legal and constitutional means to challenge what was done to J&K on 5th Aug 2019. The road ahead may be a long one, full of twists and turns but it’s not one NC will abandon.”

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