Congress Leaders Deviate From Party Line on Article 370, Hail Centre's Move in Kashmir

Sensing the mood of the people and with an eye on polls, a number of veteran Congress leaders have taken positions which are at variance with the party’s stand. 

New Delhi: Former Haryana chief minister and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda stepped away from the party line on the reading down of Article 370 and hailed the move on Sunday. A large number of soldiers from Haryana who are serving in the armed forces are deployed in Jammu and Kashmir.

In doing so, he joined a growing list of party leaders who have voiced support for the change in the state’s constitutional status. Incidentally, his son and former MP, Deepinder Singh Hooda was among the first to do so.

With an eye on polls, Hooda says no compromise with patriotism

Addressing a Mahaparivartan rally in his own constituency of Rohtak, the senior Hooda made it clear that he does not make any compromises when it comes to ‘patriotism’ and ‘self-respect’. With the state going to polls later this year, he sought to draw in the party’s traditional vote base among the rural population by distancing himself from the Congress’s decision to criticise the change in the status of J&K.

A known Sonia Gandhi loyalist, Hooda charged that the party was no longer what it used to be. Stating that “when the government does something right, I support it”, he explained that he was not going to oppose the decision to scrap Article 370 since “our brothers are deployed as soldiers in Kashmir”.

Insists BJP will not be able to hide behind this issue alone

While lauding the Centre’s move to read down Article 370, the Jat leader also declared that this move alone will not be able to ensure victory for the BJP in the upcoming polls. “I support the decision to abrogate #Article370 but I want to tell Haryana Govt that you will have to give an account of what you did in 5 years, don’t hide behind this decision,” he tweeted.

Incidentally, while many believe that Hooda could be on his way to float a new political outfit, his declarations during the day sounded more of an attempt to undo the harm which the Congress’s stand on the contentious issue could do to the party’s prospects. It is almost akin to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s immediate decision to hail the move since the capital city is also headed for polls in a few months time.

Also read: From Full Support to Gentle Praise, Congress Leaders’ ‘Personal Views’ on Kashmir Move

Political leaders in several northern states are wary of criticising the move in view of a large number of people from these regions serving in Jammu and Kashmir – thus the issue having a huge emotive factor.

Son Deepinder was among first to hail move on J&K

Hooda’s son, Deepinder, was among the first to tweet his support for the Centre’s decision on Kashmir. On August 6, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) member wrote that Article 370 had lost its “relevance in the 21st century” and it should be “revoked”.

“It is my opinion, Article 370 has no relevance in the 21st century and it should be revoked. It is also in the interest of the country’s unity and people of Jammu and Kashmir that are an integral part of the party. But it is the responsibility of the current government to execute this in an environment of peace and belief,” he tweeted, despite the Congress opposing the related Bill in Rajya Sabha.

In the Haryana assembly, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhary too supported the Centre’s move, saying: “I have always stood by the people of Jammu and Kashmir and our great soldiers. The government will now have to win the hearts of local residents. It should ensure that violence should not erupt in Jammu and Kashmir. I hope this move will bring prosperity and happiness to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.”

Senior Congress leaders said party should understand nation’s mood

In the following days, several other Congress leaders also spoke in favour of the decision. One of the most prominent among them was former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Ahead of the CWC meeting called to discuss the Modi government’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Scindia tweeted his support for the move, saying: “I support the move on #JammuAndKashmir & #Ladakh and its full integration into the union of India. Would have been better if the constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country’s interest and I support this.”

A number of veteran Congress leaders also took positions which were at variance with the party’s stand. Among them was another Sonia Gandhi loyalist and party general secretary, Janardhan Dwivedi. He said it was a matter of national satisfaction that a mistake made at the time of independence had been corrected.

“This is a matter of satisfaction for the nation. This historical mistake that happened at the time of independence has been rectified today, even though late, and is welcomed,” Dwivedi told the PTI.

Former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son and senior Congress leader, Anil Shastri, too tweeted that “Congress must sense the mood of the people and then take a stand. The people are totally with the government on this issue.” He also cautioned the party, saying “We opposed Mandal and lost UP and Bihar and should not risk now of losing India.”

Karan Singh said he proposed bifurcation of J&K way back in 1965

Finally, senior Congress leader Karan Singh, who is also the son of Maharaja Hari Singh, who signed the Instrument of Accession in 1947, too said he found “several positive points” in the move.

Stating that “the drastic measure appears to enjoy the overwhelming support of Parliament as well as around the country, including Jammu and Ladakh,” he said, “I have been pondering deeply over the situation. Personally, I do not agree with the blanket condemnation of these developments. There are several positive points.”

He went on to add that in fact, he had suggested bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir in 1965 when he was still “Sadr-i-Riyasat of J&K”.