New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday was split down the middle over the scrapping of Article 370 as a large number of leaders, mainly the young brigade, supported the government’s move while the old guard, backed by Rahul Gandhi, opposed it.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Jaiveer Shergill, and Deepender Hooda favoured withdrawal of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir even as the seniors such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal were putting up a fight against the government’s move. Azad, a former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, said that those who did not know about the history of the party and Article 370 should study it.
On the other hand, senior leaders like Anil K Shastri, Kuldeep Bishnoi, cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad and yesteryear Bollywood actor and politician Shatrughan Sinha also hailed the government’s decision of revoking Article 370.
Shastri even urged his party to sense the mood of people on the Modi government’s decision to revoke Article 370, recalling the party opposed the Mandal Commission recommendations and lost ground in north India and should not risk now of losing India.
“Congress must sense the mood of the people and then take a stand. The people are totally with the government on this issue. We opposed Mandal and lost Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and should not risk now of losing India,” Shastri said in a tweet.
The most perplexing was former chief Rahul Gandhi’s position who said the nation is made of people, “not plots of land”.
At a meeting of Congress lawmakers in Lok Sabha, several leaders expressed that the public sentiment was in favour of scrapping Article 370 and the party should not be seen swimming against the tide.
The nervousness in the Congress was visible and the ambiguity in its stand was exploited to the hilt by the treasury benches during the debate in Lok Sabha.
At one time, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked Manish Tewari, after the Congress leader made a long winding speech, if he was in favour of Article 370 or against it. The stand taken by the Congress was that the move should have been made by keeping the state legislature in the loop.
Several of the young Congress leaders who spoke up said the scrapping of Article 370 was good for the country, but it would have been better if the state legislature was taken into confidence.
The party leaders said that the first crack in the party was visible when Congress whip in Rajya Sabha Bhubaneswar Kalita resigned from the membership of Upper House just before Amit Shah moved the resolution to revoke Article 370 from J&K.
In Lok Sabha, leader of the party Adhir Ranjan Choudhary shot himself in the foot by saying Jammu and Kashmir was not an internal matter of the country.
Even during the CWC meeting called on Tuesday to discuss the issue, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was tense as the party felt that it had lost the plot completely, said a party leader who did not want to be named.
The leader also noted that Priyanka Gandhi, who earlier use to come with brother Rahul Gandhi and mother Sonia Gandhi to the CWC meeting also came alone for the meeting on Tuesday evening.
In a tweet ealier on Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi had said: “National integration is not furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land. This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security.”
The party leader also said that the communication gap among the leaders was such that even national media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala did not attend the CWC meeting at the party headquarters here. However, a leader close to Surjewala attributed his absence to poor health.