The mandate was massive and it was against Article 35A and Article 370 and for total integration of J&K into India.
On April 8, 2019, the BJP released its election manifesto 2019. It was released by the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh (now Defence Minister). Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah (now Home Minister) were present on the occasion. It was a comprehensive document and got immense publicity. It talked about Ram Mandir, Uniform Civil Code, national security, armed forces, terrorism, borders’ security, farmers and New India. It also talked about Jammu & Kashmir and Article 35A and Article 370.
As for J&K, the BJP manifesto read like this: “In the last five years, we have made all necessary efforts to ensure peace in J&K through decisive actions and firm policy. We are committed to overcoming all obstacles that come in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state. We reiterate our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370. We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of J&K. We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied-J&K (POJK) and Chhamb”.
The result was that the BJP won 303 seats and decimated almost all the parties across the nation, barring Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Odisha.
Earlier on April 2, the Congress had released its election manifesto. As for J&K, the Congress manifesto said: “The party has been witness to the developments in the conflicted state since the Instrument of Accession that was signed on October 26, 1947. The whole of J&K is a part of India. On Article 370 of the Constitution, our stand is clear. Nothing will be done or allowed to change the Constitutional position”.
That the BJP released its election manifesto 6 days later and took a stand that was t totally different from that of the Congress was very meaningful. It only suggested that the BJP was really committed to taking definite steps leading to the (1) abrogation of Article 35A and Article 370, (2) integrating J&K fully into India and (3) providing equal rights to all Indians in J&K as Indians, including children of the daughters married outside J&K with non-J&K residents.
But more than that Prime Minister Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and many other top BJP leaders made Article 35A and Article 370 their fundamental poll planks before and after the release of the party manifesto. Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah reiterated their stand on these Articles again and again during their interviews to national news channels. Arun Jaitley wrote two blogs on the issue. The truth is that Articles 35A and Articles 370, among other issues, including national security, nationalism, terrorism, Pakistan and Kashmir, became major election issues across the nation.
The result was that the BJP won 303 seats and decimated almost all the parties across the nation, barring Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Odisha. In 2014, the BJP had won 282 seats. In 2019, the BJP won 21 more seats. In J&K, the BJP decimated all its political foes. It won all the three seats from Jammu and Ladakh with huge margins. It got 46.4% of the total votes polled. Contrarily, the Congress, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party together polled only 37.7% of the total votes polled. Thus, the mandate was massive and it was against Article 35A and Article 370 and for total integration of J&K into India.
The BJP would do well to clear all the cobwebs of confusion. A single-line statement that it is committed to giving an effect to its election manifesto would be enough to put things in perspective.
Will the Modi Government abrogate Article 35A and Article 370? Why this question? Because only on June 12, J&K Governor SP Malik made certain statements at SKICC, Srinagar, which were inconsistent with what the BJP manifesto, the Prime Minister, the BJP chief and Arun Jaitley had said. He dismissed as “rumours” the talks about delimitation commission in J&K. He asserted that there was no danger to Article 35A and Article 370 and they were only part of election manifestos. Besides, he appealed to militants in Kashmir to start a dialogue with him so that they got what they wanted.
“Whatever you (militants) can get is through talks and dialogue. You have your own Constitution, you have a separate flag. Whatever more you want, you will get it through the democratic process and within the ambit of the Indian constitution…Take everything from us, we will give our lives but through love and dialogue. For that (PM) Narendra Modi is ready, we are ready. Drop your guns and come to Rajbhawan to have lunch with me. Come to the dialogue table and take it forward,” he said.
As far as Article 35A and Article 370 were concerned, Governor SP Malik said: “These are in manifestos of many political parties and there is a lot of talk going about it. However, there is nothing to worry on this front. There is a rumour about delimitation, it is not something that can be done overnight as it is a constitutional matter. Even the (Union) Home Ministry has not confirmed that they are doing something like that. There are basically just rumours and newspapers reports only, there is no basis in these”.
There was no ambiguity in whatever Governor Malik said. His statement on separate J&K Constitution and separate flag, his reassurance that there was no threat to Article 35A and Article 370, his invitation of talks to militants and what he said about delimitation of assembly constituencies have naturally created doubts in the minds of those who had voted for total integration into India and equal rights for all in J&K. In fact, these statements have disappointed many with some of them asking: Will the BJP honour its poll promises and integrate J&K into India?
The BJP would do well to clear all the cobwebs of confusion. A single-line statement that it is committed to giving an effect to its election manifesto would be enough to put things in perspective. To not repeal Article 35A and Article 370 would simply mean the murder of the 2019 mandate.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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