In a stinging attack on the Congress on the Kashmir issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday accused it of "shamelessly" taking a U-turn and lending its voice for "Kashmir's azadi", a language spoken by Pakistan.
He told BJP workers here that his government would not compromise with the country's unity and integrity.
"All of a sudden, those who were in power till yesterday have taken a U-turn. Shamelessly, they are making a statement and are lending their voice for Kashmir's azadi," Modi said.
Without taking Chidambaram's name, the prime minister said, "I'm surprised that those who were in power at the Centre, those who were responsible for the country's internal security and national security (are saying this)."
Modi said the country had no hope or expectations from the Congress.
Noting that Sardar Patel took important decisions for the country's unity, he said thousands of jawans have sacrificed their lives for Kashmir.
"The country's soldiers have sacrificed their lives every moment for the sake of security of the motherland and innocent citizens of Kashmir.
"I want to ask the people of Bengaluru, can the country benefit from such people who are playing politics on the sacrifice of our soldiers...? They don't have any shame in saying this. The Congress party will have to give an answer for this (Chidambaram's) statement...," he said.
Modi said, "Those brave hearts who have sacrificed their lives, mothers who have lost their sons for the country... that mother is asking the question, that sister who has lost her brother is asking the question and the child who has lost his father is asking the question."
But, he said, the Congress was "shamelessly using such language that is used by the separatists on Kashmir's land. (They are) using the language that is spoken by Pakistan."
Underlining that this was the land of Sardar Patel, he said, "We will not compromise with the country's unity and integrity and we will not allow it happen."
On Saturday, Chidambaram had told reporters in Rajkot in poll-bound Gujarat, "The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect the letter and spirit of Article 370, that means they want greater autonomy. My interactions in J&K led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi, mostly, I am not saying all... the overwhelming majority, they want autonomy."
"Yes, I do," Chidambaram said when he was asked if he still thinks that Jammu and Kashmir should be given greater autonomy.
Chidambaram had in July 2016 advocated greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, saying India should restore the "grand bargain" under which Kashmir had acceded by granting a large degree of autonomy to it.
He had warned that otherwise, the country will have to pay a "heavy price".
The Congress, however, has sought to distance itself from the remarks of Chidambaram on Kashmir, saying the "opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the party".
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and "will always remain so unquestionably."
Reacting sharply, the BJP on Saturday said it was not surprising to see Chidambaram make such comments given his leader supported those who gave slogan of "Bharat teretukdehonge", an apparent reference to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi backing those who protested the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar in the JNU row.
Kumar, then the JNUSU president, and a few others were arrested on the charge of sedition after anti-national slogans were allegedly raised at an event on the campus in February last year to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
"Shocking that PC bats for separatists & 'azadi' but then not surprising given that their leader supported 'Bharat teretukdehonge'naara!" Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani had tweeted.
"Shameful given that PC spoke in Gujarat, the birthplace of Sardar Patel ; a man who dedicated his life for the unity & prosperity of India," she added.
"Whether this statement which has come from a prominent leader of the Congress party is the party's official stand or not? I think the party should immediately clarify that," he had said in Mumbai.