New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi believes that the public opinion on the Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370 is divided but his young party colleagues have a different opinion.
At a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s apex decision-making body, Tuesday evening, the so-called ‘Young Turks’ launched a virtual revolt against the high command for its refusal to read the public mood.
“Whatever we may think about the government’s decision but the people outside are all for this. We have to face the people in our constituencies,” one of the young leaders is learnt to have said at the meeting.
Former MPs Jyotiraditya Scindia and Deepender Hooda have already gone public with their support for the government’s move on Article 370 even as the Congress was opposing it in Parliament.
At the CWC meeting, the two were joined by Jitin Prasada and R.P.N. Singh in questioning the party line and exhorting the leadership to be cognisant of the public mood.
According to a leader present at the meeting, senior Congressman P. Chidambaram sought to defend the party line, saying people in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the northeast didn’t look at the government’s decision favourably.
Gandhi chipped in, saying there was no uniformity in the public response as he was also getting different views from across the country.
The young guns, however, stuck to their views, striking a discordant note. It was one of the rare occasions when the CWC witnessed a rebellion against the high command’s line, which they felt was completely opposite to “the feeling on the ground” and “mood of the public”.
‘Even if they had to amend it…’
As a heated debate ensued at the meeting, senior Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik and Kumari Selja defended the leadership’s stance that Article 370 should not have been revoked.
“After hearing everyone out, Rahul said that even if the government had to amend the Article, proper procedure should have been followed,” another young leader told ThePrint.
Gandhi has been mostly silent on the abrogation of Article 370, though he has sought to call out the “abuse of executive power” by the BJP to revoke it.
The Congress had initially spoken against the abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu & Kashmir, with Chidambaram making an impassioned case against the move in Parliament Monday, when the decision was made public. He had called the move a “catastrophic blunder”.
The party’s stance has since been modified to reflect Gandhi’s argument, which suggests the party is just opposed to the procedure followed.
At the meeting Tuesday, the CWC passed a resolution that “deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution”.
“It (Article 370) deserved to be honoured until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution of India,” the resolution added.
Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP from Assam, told ThePrint that the “humiliation of the people of Kashmir by the government was discussed at length” in the meeting.
“Everyone spoke their mind and, after a very civil conversation, we unanimously passed the resolution,” he added.
Scindia and Hooda’s backing of the Modi government’s decision has been echoed by former and party leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Milind Deora.
Rajya Sabha leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former chief minister of J&K, has hit out at the dissenting leaders, asking them to learn the state’s and the party’s “history before staying in the Congress”.
“Jin logon ko J&K ki history ya Congress ki history pata nahi, unse mujhe koi lena dena nahi hai (I don’t have anything to do with those who have no clue about the Congress’ or J&K’s history),” he told the media outside Parliament Tuesday.