Within minutes of taking charge as the Minister of State (MoS), PMO, on Tuesday, Jitendra Singh triggered a controversy, stating that the process of abrogating Article 370 that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir has already begun and they are discussing the issue with several stakeholders in the state.
Reacting to his statement, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Mark my words & save this tweet — long after Modi Govt is a distant memory, either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist… Art 370 is the ONLY constitutional link between J&K & rest of India. Talk of revocation not just ill-informed, it’s irresponsible.”
The PDP said Singh’s statement was “disruptive” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership to rein him in before he causes “serious damage”.
Singh, whose inclusion in the Modi government was a surprise given that he joined the BJP just two years ago, called Article 370 a “psychological barrier”. He said it is not in the interest of the people of J&K and has done them more harm than good.
“We want to have a debate so that we can convince the unconvinced about the disadvantages of Article 370. We have already begun the process by inviting all stakeholders and tried to interact with several groups. The right to dissent is a constitutional right and we want to explain to the youth what advantages they have been deprived of in comparison to those belonging to other states,” said Singh.
The BJP in its manifesto had said they would work towards abrogation of Article 370.
When asked if the party had the mandate to do so, Singh said, “The BJP has won half of the six Lok Sabha seats from J&K. We have more than 50 per cent vote share.”
Hours later, PTI quoted Singh as saying that he had been “misquoted”. “I seek to clarify that the reports in the media about my statement on Article 370 are misquoted. I have never said anything quoting the honourable Prime Minister. The controversy is totally baseless,” he said, according to the PTI report.
Incidentally, Singh’s brother Devender Singh Rana was advisor to Omar earlier and is the president of the National Conference’s Jammu unit. Singh was elected from Udhampur, defeating Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad.