A day after former home minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram backed greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched a blistering attack on the grand old party and said such remarks are an insult to the brave soldiers of the country. “Why are Congress leaders lending their voice to those who want Azadi in Kashmir. This is an insult to our brave soldiers,” PM Modi said while addressing a gathering at the Dashamah Soundarya Lahari Parayanotsava Mahasarmapane in Bengaluru.
Criticising Chidambaram’s stance on Kashmir, the Prime Minister said such statements undermine the armed forces achievements like carrying out surgical strikes. “Yesterday’s statement of a Congress leader on Kashmir clearly shows how the party feels on surgical strikes and bravery of our Army,” Modi said, while describing Chidambaram’s statement as “unacceptable.”
“Congress will have to answer for the recent statement of their leaders on Kashmir. The statement was unacceptable,” he said.
PM Modi also targeted the Congress over alleged lies made by the party members on the standoff between India and China in Doklam. “Do you remember the lies Congress was spreading on Doklam. People of India trusted them so much but this is their conduct,” he stated.
In Karnataka, which goes to polls next year, Modi also said the Congress is disconnected with the aspirations of the country. “People have no expectations from the Congress party,” Modi said.
Earlier on Saturday, Congress leader P Chidambaram had reiterated his earlier stance backing greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, even as the party sought to distance itself from the controversial remarks.
Asked by a journalist during Saturday’s interaction with businessmen and intelligentsia in Rajkot whether he still held that position, Chidambaram said: “Yes…. The demand in Kashmir Valley is to respect in letter and spirit Article 370. And that means that they want greater autonomy. My interactions in Jammu and Kashmir led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azaadi (independence), most people —- I am not saying all —- (an) overwhelming majority want autonomy. Therefore, I think we should seriously examine that question and consider on what areas we can give autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.”
Pointing out that granting such autonomy will be “perfectly within the Constitution of India”, the Congress said, “Jammu and Kashmir will remain an integral part of India but it will have larger powers as promised under Article 370”.
In a statement issued late on Friday, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said, “Jammu-Kashmir & Ladakh is an integral part of Indian Union and will always remain so unquestionably…. “(The) opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the Indian National Congress. In our democracy, individuals are entitled to opinions.”
BJP reacted to Chidambaram’s comments soon and launched a stinging criticism with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stating in Mumbai that the Congress’s position on “azadi or autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir goes directly contrary to India’s national interest”, and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani calling it “shocking” and “shameful”.