Even as the Union Cabinet proceeded to approve a proposal to honour BJP’s oldest ideological commitment of stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, Prime Minister Narendra Modi advised his ministerial colleagues that there is no room for triumphalism and reminded them that it’s now that the heavy-lifting begins, sources told The Indian Express.
“It is a big day for the country. We should demonstrate foresight and statesmanship to take everyone along on this,” said a source about Modi’s message to the Cabinet on the morning of August 5 while approving Home Minister Amit Shah’s proposal to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories. “Everyone clapped and congratulated when the proposal was put forward and approved in the Cabinet meeting,” said the source.
“For the BJP and most of the ministers who have come from the RSS background, it was a moment of joy and fulfilment. It was natural for Ministers to express it,” said another source present in the meeting. “But the message that this should not be portrayed as a triumph over something, it should be taken as a correction of a historic blunder.”
The Prime Minister, according to this source, reminded his ministerial colleagues that being the ruling party, BJP leaders should be aware of the “repercussions” of such a decision and its effect on a section of people. “Party cannot ignore it, BJP cannot afford to overlook the reactions. Not just that party has to take everyone along, it has to also help security agencies control the situation,” the source said.
Even as the party mourned the death of former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, sources said, a call has been taken to avoid “chest thumping by leaders or cadres on Kashmir.”
Party leaders underline the caution advised by the leadership against “celebrating.” Party appears alive to the task at hand to contain the possible repercussions in the Kashmir valley as well as other parts of the country.
Before this message to Cabinet colleagues, Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had already done crucial spadework to get the proposal cleared by both Houses of Parliament.
Party sources in Rajya Sabha told The Indian Express that Modi and Shah walked an extra step to get Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on board given their numbers in the house.
Moreover, both leaders were aware of Naidu’s personal political history of having objected to the unruly scenes in the Rajya Sabha at the time of Andhra Pradesh bifurcation five years ago so they took him into confidence on the J&K bill.
That Naidu has been an ideological fellow-traveller starting his career as an ABVP activist and has personally participated in functions demanding scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir helped the BJP leadership to prepare him for the House in advance.
Once Naidu was on board, the Government decided to introduce the legislation in Rajya Sabha first instead of Lok Sabha where it commanded a majority. “It would have been smooth sailing in the Lok Sabha but it would have given a day for the Opposition in Rajya Sabha to strategise. Its introduction in Upper House caught the Opposition unawares. It helped us avoid major disruption that could have stalled this Bill,” said a source briefed on the strategy.
Another source, in this context, revealed that the two-day BJP training session for party MPs over the weekend (August 3-4) was another ploy to hold every party member in the national capital for the surprise agenda on August 5 and 6 in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively.
Naidu went ahead with the government’s decision to introduce new legislative business on August 5. In fact, Rajya Sabha Secretariat sources said that additional marshals were kept ready for the proceedings. Naidu did not flinch as he got two protesting PDP members escorted out of the House after a copy of the Constitution was torn.
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