If there is one issue which emotionally unites Mr. LK Advani and Mr. Narendra Modi, and indeed the bulk of the BJP leadership, it is Article 370 imposed in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Recently both leaders commented against this Article on Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s death anniversary. Mr. Advani spoke in Jammu while Mr. Modi spoke in Punjab from where he launched his 2014 poll campaign.
The BJP rationale to oppose this Article is clear enough. It refuses to recognize differential treatment to Indian citizens and the conferment of special status to the one state of J&K. This writer supports the notion of putting all the states of the Union on an equal footing. The only difference from the BJP expressed by this writer is that while granting autonomy to J&K as demanded by Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah, with or without Article 370 as presently promulgated, special status should end not by curtailing J&K autonomy but by granting it equally to all the states of the Union. It was further suggested that this might be accompanied by reviewing the Constitution and reinterpreting it in the light of its written text. The President should be allowed to discharge the powers ascribed to the office by our written Constitution in order to ensure national cohesion.
The BJP will not review Presidential powers but continue to insist on the abolition of Article 370. However a recent event has exposed the party’s hypocrisy and doublespeak. Addressing the rally to mark the 60th death anniversary of Shyama Prasad on the J&K-Punjab border Mr. Modi said: “The future of the people of this country is not secure in the hands of the Congress…We cannot let this country fall into more danger… We unite parties and hearts. We do not do vote-bank politics!” While Mr. Modi spoke the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Prakash Singh Badal stood approvingly by his side on the dais. But was Mr. Badal aware of what was going on at that very time against the people of his state who had migrated to Gujarat?
The Gujarat government ordered 500 odd Sikh families settled in the Kutch area of Gujarat to sell their land and return to Punjab because they were not Gujaratis! The government cited the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 to issue this order. The National Commission of Minorities rubbished the government’s interpretation of the Act which implied that only Gujarati farmers could own or buy land in Gujarat. The land accounts of the Sikh farmers are already frozen. Vindicating the Commission’s view the Gujarat High Court struck down the government’s order. But the Gujarat government undeterred has challenged the court order in the Supreme Court. A Sikh member of the Commission, Mr. Ajaib Singh accused Mr. Modi of victimizing the Sikh farmers. He has requested Punjab CM Mr. Badal to intervene. Regardless of Mr. Badal’s response how do BJP stalwarts Mr. Advani and Mr. Modi square the BJP policy in Gujarat with their party’s stand on Article 370 in J&K which apparently has pride of place in their current poll campaign?