From gaffe to split views: Cong's internal battle over Article 370

Rahul Gandhi
Despite having had plenty of warning and time for preparation, the Congress on Tuesday had to hold a meeting to align its stance on Article 370 and lurched from embarrassment to embarrassment as it became clear that the party did not have one, unified view of Article 370.

Speaking on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, claimed Kashmir is an international issue, prompting senior leader Sonia Gandhi, sitting a few feet away, to frown and then gesture to other Congress MPs as if to say: ‘What is he saying?’ 

“You say that it is an internal matter, but it is being monitored since 1948 by the UN, is that an internal matter? We signed the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration, was that an internal matter or bilateral?” said Chaudhury, contradicting his party’s position for decades that the monitoring of the Kashmir ceasefire by the UN Military Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was not part of the Indian government’s resolution to the Kashmir issue which was bilateral. India has opposed the UNMOGIP's operations, especially after the Shimla Agreement of 1972 that says the Kashmir issue is to be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan. Islamabad, however, has frequently called for third-party involvement. Later Choudhary had to clarify and modify his statement.

Similar confusion was caused by party leader from Punjab and spokesman Jaiveer Shergill who supported the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 while criticising the BJP for how it was done. This was echoed by Milind Deora.

All these voices were slammed by Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, who about his colleagues in the party, said: “I have nothing to do with those who don’t know the history of Congress and Jammu and Kashmir.” Although several Congress leaders, including Azad, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, opposed the move in the Rajya Sabha, and leaders like Rajeev Gowda made frenetic attempts to press amendments, outside the House leaders like Janardhan Dwivedi also upheld the scrapping of the provisions of Article 370.

Meanwhile, criticising the decision to turn Ladakh into a Union Territory, Azad told the media: "People in Leh were in favour of the Union Territory status while Kargil was against it. Nobody is showing protests in Kargil but only showing celebrations in Leh… Similarly, in Jammu district, we only see media coverage of people who are against Article 370." 

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi only reacted on Twitter and did not speak in Parliament or any public forum. There seemed no overt effort by the Opposition to band together and form a common front.

The issue concerning National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who claimed he was under house arrest (although Home Minister Amit Shah denied any such move) was raised by the Nationalist Congress Party’s Supriya Sule, but only as a throwaway remark.

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