More than 24 hours after the Centre pulled off a political coup to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday slammed the “abuse of executive power” by the ruling BJP and said the move would have grave implications for India’s national security.
Gandhi’s statement, voicing strong opposition to the way the government went about repealing the special status, comes at a time when an internal rift in the Congress has come to the fore over the stand taken by the party on the crucial issue.
“This nation is made by its people, not plots of land,” he wrote on Twitter, spelling out what the party line would be going forward.
“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,” he said.
The Congress has been a divided house after the government on Monday moved to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir by amending Article 370 with a presidential decree, and turn the state into two Union Territories, which would give the Centre all the power in the region.
While senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and P Chidambaram vehemently opposed the move in Rajya Sabha on Monday, senior party leaders, including Janardan Dwivedi, a Congress veteran and Gandhi family loyalist, took a different stand.
“My mentor Ram Manohar Lohia was against Article 370 from the start…My personal view is that this is a matter of national satisfaction. A mistake made during independence has been corrected, even if belatedly,” Janardhan Dwivedi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI on Monday.
Congress leader Deepender Hooda, the son of former Haryanaa Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, had also welcomed the government move and so had another leader Jaiveer Shergill.
This was in sharp contrast to the stand taken by the party in Parliament. Azad and Chidambaram had called the repeal of special status as “murder of democracy” in Rajya Sabha, while Manish Tewari called it a constitutional travesty in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
He said that even during the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the polity’s consent had been sought, unlike in Jammu and Kashmir, where the decision was sprung as a surprise without the consent of stakeholders and after massive troop buildup.
The presidential order amending the clause of Article 370 that gave autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir came after a constitutional manoeuvre by the government that is likely to be challenged in Supreme Court.
Article 370 stated that changes through the presidential order could only be done in consultation with the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, which was dissolved after the accession of the state to the Indian Union.