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Will Priyanka’s clamour of democracy work?

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The Congress is struggling for its existence after debacles in the 2019 Parliamentary elections. At the same time, the party is facing leadership crisis. On the other hand, after landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections, buoyant Narendra Modi took a bold decision to scrap Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir on August 5, 2019. PM Modi got support of many political parties, while the Congress is left beleaguered over the issue. Only few parties are supporting it. Many Congress leaders have supported PM Modi’s move on Article 370.

Meanwhile, the Modi government has imposed many restrictions to thwart any unwanted incident. Prominent Kashmiri leaders are under house arrest since August 5. On Friday, Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir and party spokesperson Ravinder Sharma were arrested when they were going to address a press conference. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra strongly criticised the arrest of party leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. She accused the ruling BJP and the Centre of eroding the country’s democratic identity through such acts.

“On what grounds have Congress leaders in Jammu and Kashmir been arrested? Is it a crime to speak to the media? It’s now 15 days since former Chief Ministers who respected and abided by the Constitution of India just like our leaders have been under arrest,” she tweeted. “Does the Modi government believe that India is still a democracy?” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra questioned.

It is worth mentioning that Congress workers are asking for to make Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as Congress President. She is a potential leader who could be face of the Congress. In the past, she has done well whatever responsibility the party has assigned. As far as the scrapping of Article 370 is concerned, one can say that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is a good lawyer of very-very weak case.

Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told Afternoon Voice, “Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Ghulam Ahmed Mir and party spokesperson Ravinder Sharma were arrested by the government. These are oppressive policies of the Modi government at the Centre. They have arrested and detained Kashmiri leaders, including former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. Now, they have sent Congress leaders of Jammu and Kashmir behind the bars. Actually, Narendra Modi government does not want any political activity in Kashmir. I have already criticised the arrest of the Congress leaders on the social media.”

Regional parties like BSP, BJD, AIADMK and YSR-CP have supported the scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and a bill to reorganise the state in two separate Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.  Barring single NDA constituent Janata Dal (United), all other allies of the BJP like Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, AGP and BPF have strongly supported the move.

President of NCP Mumbai unit Nawab Malik said, “Arrest of Congress leaders in Jammu and Kashmir is condemnable. There should not be ban on expression. They must be allowed to address the press conference.”

Apart from this, many Congress leaders have also supported the central government’s decision. Congress leader and former MP Jyotiraditya Scindia had tweeted, “I support the move on #JammuAndKashmir & #Ladakh and its full integration into union of India. Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country’s interest and I support this.” Congress veteran and a Gandhi family loyalist Janardan Dwivedi said,  “My mentor Ram Manohar Lohia was against Article 370 from the start…My personal view is that this is a matter of national satisfaction. A mistake made during independence has been corrected, even if belatedly.”

Congress leader Deepender Hooda, the son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and considered a member of Team Rahul, tweeted, “My personal view is that there isn’t a need to have Article 370 in the 21st century.” “The move is not only in the interest of the country but also for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. It is the responsibility of the government to implement the move in a peaceful environment,” Deepender Hooda said.

Another Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill also voiced his support to the move to make Article 370 inoperative. He said, “My Personal Point of View, I support scrapping of Article 370 but only and only in accordance with provisions and methodology provided by the Constitution of India which mandates consent of J&K State Assembly -any other way is Unconstitutional.”

The Congress whip in Rajya Sabha, Bhubaneswar Kalita, resigned over his party’s stand on the government’s move to revoke Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. He said that the Congress party was committing suicide by opposing the scrapping of Article 370. In a letter circulating online, Bhubaneswar Kalita said that the party leadership had asked him to issue a whip but he felt that the “whip was against the nation’s sentiments”. Thus, he said, he decided to resign from the party.

BJP spokesperson Prof. Suhas Pharande said, “At present, peace and tranquility is necessary for Jammu and Kashmir not any press conference. People of the state must have their business back. The situation should not be volatile. That is why the Centre and local administration are trying to maintain peace and harmony in the state. With one month situation in Jammu and Kashmir will be normal.”

It is remarkable that scores of politicians were arrested and detained in Jammu and Kashmir. Among these politicians former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are prominent, who remain in custody in safehouses in Srinagar. On Wednesday, Kashmiri IAS topper-turned-politician Shah Faesal was detained at the Delhi airport while he was reportedly about to fly abroad. He was sent back to Srinagar, where he was placed under house arrest under the Public Safety Act.

On the other hand, PM Modi attacked the Congress and other opposition parties in his Independence Day speech. PM questioned why the Congress didn’t make special status for Jammu and Kashmir permanent during its rule if it was so important.

In the first Independence Day speech of his second term, Modi said that his government neither nurses problems nor keeps them pending, saying India has truly achieved ‘one nation, one Constitution’ with the Kashmir move. PM Modi said that the decision to revoke Article 370 is a step towards realising the dream of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The BJP has accused the Congress of opposing the scrapping of Article 370 only for political reasons and it has nothing to do with the welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

By Dipti Joshi

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