PRIME Minister Narendra Modi was “imagining a ghost and attacking it”, former finance minister P Chidambaram said on Sunday, reacting to the PM’s criticism of his statement on autonomy for Kashmir. “It is obvious the PM has not read the whole answer to the question put to me on J&K (at an interaction in Rajkot). The answer has been published verbatim in The Indian Express today. Those who criticise must read the whole answer and tell me which word in the answer was wrong. The PM is imagining a ghost and attacking it,” Chidambaram said.
He also denied Modi’s claim that the Congress couldn’t digest the NDA government’s achievement over surgical strikes. Chidambaram said, “Neither the Congress nor I criticised the ‘surgical strikes’. We pointed out that these were cross-border actions and such actions had been done in the past too, as admitted by the Army Chief.”
At the interaction in Rajkot on Saturday, Chidambaram had reiterated his earlier view on greater autonomy for J&K. Asked whether he stood by it, Chidambaram had 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 azadi, 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.”
His remarks had drawn strong criticism from the the BJP, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Incidentally, the Congress had distanced itself from Chidambaram’s remarks on Saturday, with Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala saying “the opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the Indian National Congress”. “While individuals may have different personal opinions, the Congress believes that the solution for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu & Kashmir lies solely within the framework of India’s Constitution,” he had said.
Asked about the party’s reaction now, after the PM’s offensive, Surjewala said he had nothing to add to what he had said Saturday. “Individual leaders can have their opinion. There is no bar in anybody having an opinion. Our opinion we have expressed already,” he told The Indian Express.