From Full Support to Gentle Praise, Congress Leaders' 'Personal Views' on Kashmir Move

A senior leader told The Wire that in the absence of a defined party line on the issue, many leaders were unsure as to what would be a permissible take on it.

New Delhi: A day after senior Congress leaders likened Union home minister Amit Shah’s Kashmir resolution to “a murder of democracy,”  it appears that many in the party would differ or at least prefer to vacillate on the issue. 

A section of the party leaders have come out openly to support the Union government’s move to scrap several provisions of Article 370. One of the biggest names to do so was Jyotiraditya Scindia, who followed his note of support with a qualifier that he would have preferred that the constitutional process had been followed.

Senior party leader and Gandhi family loyalist Janardan Dwivedi was quoted by ANI as having said, “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.” 

That the grand old party is a divided house has been reflected often, but most recently, the differing views of even its senior leaders have done nothing to prove unity among its ranks. 

Veteran Ashwani Kumar also supported the government’s decisions. 

Considered close to former party president Rahul Gandhi, Deepender Singh Hooda, who is also the son of former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, also aired his opinions on the matter on Twitter.

He said that his personal view was that Article 370 was irrelevant in the 21st century. “The move is not only in the interest of the country but also for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is the responsibility of the government to implement the move in a peaceful environment,” Deepender said. 

Also read: The Backstory of Article 370: A True Copy of J&K’s Instrument of Accession

However, he soon qualified his statement with the rejoinder that the government should have ensured, in national interest, that the decisions were taken after speaking to and involving mainstream political parties, and said he wished it had not gone about it in an authoritarian way. He said that democracy can only progress if the government builds consensus around an issue in a peaceful environment. 

A section of young leaders also published views that appear contrarian to that of the Congress high command’s. Invoking poet and German pastor Martin Niemöller in his attack on BJP for glossing over the constitution to scrap provisions of Article 370 through a Presidential Order, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said he personally supported the abrogation of Article 370.

Until recently president of the Maharashtra Congress, Milind Deora also sent out a tweet which appeared anything but unequivocal. 

Deora expressed his anguish over the fact that the Kashmir debate is being reduced to “a liberal versus conservative one.” He then went on to say that political parties should put aside their “ideological fixations” and decide what is best for Jammu and Kashmir. 

Commentators interpreted it as the leader diverging from the party line, as his tweet largely resembled what Amit Shah also argued in the parliament.  

However, he soon qualified his statement by warning that the revocation of Article 370 could well be another disaster in the making and may end up like demonetisation.

While Congress’s regional MLAs like Uttar Pradesh legislator Aditi Singh tweeted in solid support of the government’s move, the party’s minister in the Rajasthan government, Ashok Chandana, vouched for the end result but decried the “authoritarian” way the Article was abrogated. 

On Monday, the party received a shock when its chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, Bhubaneswar Kalita, resigned allegedly in protest against Congress’s official position against the scrapping of Article 370. He issued a statement which read, “The Congress has asked me to issue a whip on the Kashmir issue. But the truth is that the mood of the nation has completely changed and this whip is against the public sentiment across the country…It seems the Congress is committing suicide with this ideology and I don’t want to be part of this.”

Also read: ‘Feel Sad That Home Minister Can Lie Like This’: Farooq Abdullah Says He Was Detained

Sources in the Congress said that the party’s leaders had always had various points of view on the issue. “However, Rahul Gandhi’s silence for over 24 hours on it has created confusion among leaders,” a senior party leader told The Wire. 

Perhaps that would explain the qualifiers many of these leaders advanced after articulating their initial views. A lack of a permanent president after Rahul Gandhi quit the post has put the party in embarrassing situations over the last two months. Rahul’s tweet on Tuesday morning, said the senior leader, should go some way in ending the confusion in the party.