Senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh says there is a need to review Article 370 and 35-A that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir to establish whether these Constitutional provisions have benefited or done damage to the militancy-hit state.
Singh’s remark comes against the backdrop of the BJP’s stand in its manifesto pledging to abrogate Article 370 and 35-A of the Constitution. BJP President Amit Shah has also repeatedly spoken about scrapping these provisions during the Lok Sabha poll campaign.
The home minister also said a decision on holding assembly elections in the state was the prerogative of the Election Commission but indicated a decision could be announced after the completion of the Lok Sabha polls.
Singh was replying to a question during an interview to PTI recently as to whether BJP thinks that abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution will help resolve the Kashmir issue which he termed as challenging.
“Kashmir ek chunauti hai lekin uska hal jaldi niklega (Kashmir is a challenge but it will be resolved soon),” said Singh, who was the chairman of the BJP manifesto committee.
When pointedly asked whether abrogation of Article 370 and 35A was a solution, Singh said, “muje yeh lagta hai ki sameksha kee jani chahiye ki dhara 370 ya 35-A ke karan Kashmir ko laab hua hai ya haani (I feel that a review should be done whether Article 370 or 35-A has benefited Kashmir or damaged it).”
The statement of Singh also comes close on the heels of the statement made by another senior BJP leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari that the BJP is committed to abrogating Article 370.
Gadkari also went on to say during a TV interview that “because of the sensitive situation, it’s not appropriate to implement that (abrogation of Article 370)”.
“We were in power with full majority this time, still we did no go ahead. However, as far as the party’s philosophy, policy and approach to the issue is concerned, we are firm on it,” Gadkari had said.
While Article 370 gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35-A empowers state’s legislature to define “permanent resident” of the state and reserve their right to employment besides other privileges.
Asked about the timing of assembly elections in the state, Singh said that no doubt the polls should be held.
“The need for security forces for assembly elections is huge and there was a need for deployment in other states as well for Lok Sabha polls. Now that the parliamentary polls are nearing end, the Election Commission can decide on the dates.”
The state was placed under Governor’s rule on June 19 last year after the BJP unceremoniously withdrew support from the PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti. The assembly was dissolved on November 21 by Governor Satya Pal Malik who claimed that he took the step to prevent horse trading.
After six months of Governor’s rule, the state was brought under President’s rule on December 19, 2018 for a period of six months as elections could not be held within six months of imposition of Governor’s rule.
The current spell of the President’s rule will have to be extended again on May 19.
The extension of President’s rule must also be ratified by Parliament once the new Lok Sabha is constituted.