October 2017 News

Congress Distances Itself As PC Remark On J&K Autonomy Triggers Row

29 October 2017
Times of India

Srinagar: Congress said it was in the process of finalising its formula for finding peace in Jammu and Kashmir and did not agree with individual opinions on the subject, distancing itself from senior leader P Chidambaram who has advocated greater autonomy for the troubled state. In a detailed rebuttal, AICC spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, 'While individuals may have different opinions, Congress believes the solution for lasting peace and prosperity for J&K lies solely within the framework of the Constitution.' Surjewala added that Congress's policy group headed by former PM Manmohan Singh was exploring the issue and would be visiting Ladakh on November 10-12 for discussions with locals. The blunt response from Congress came after Chidambaram's remark favouring autonomy for J&K were seized upon by BJP leaders who called it a recipe for di vision of the country . The issue flared up further when PM Modi said in a rally in Karnataka that calls for autonomy were an insult to the soldiers' sacrifices. Chidambaram, speaking in Rajkot on Saturday , said, 'My interactions in J&K led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi, most people -I am not saying all -overwhelming majority want autonomy .' He added that autonomy was within the framework of the Constitution and would be in line with Article 370. Chidambaram defended his statement after Modi joined the issue, asking critics to point out what was wrong about his response. He appeared to highlight his explanation that autonomy would be within the framework of the Constitution and J&K would continue to be part of the country . But Congress clearly appeared rattled by the controversy, evident from its decision to step in with damage control. It was felt that senior leaders should understand that political nuances about autonomy were little noticed in the jingoistic language used by rival BJP which anyway is desperately looking for an opening on the J&K issue. BJP has been facing criticism since the Centre announced an interlocutor for talks in J&K, including with separatists. It has been dubbed as a swing from 'no talks' to 'talks with all'. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said PM Narendra Modi should have fully read his comments on autonomy for J&K before criticising him. In a statement, the former home minister said, 'It is obvious the PM has not read the whole answer to the question put to me on J&K. 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 defended his statement and asked critics to point out what was wrong about his response. Earlier in the day, Chidambaram tweeted, 'My answer to question on J&K reported today... The BJP should read before criticising.' He posted a link to a news report about his remarks on Saturday at an event in Rajkot.