Opinion split on Article 370; BSP, Cong struggle to fight dissent within

Leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, R P N Singh, Avinash Pande, and some others told the CWC that the public mood was in favour of the govt's move

mayawati, bsp

Opposition parties, particularly the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), seem to be struggling to come to terms with the dissent within over the issue of Article 370. The BSP had supported the move in Parliament, while the Congress had opposed it.

BSP chief Mayawati removed Danish Ali as her party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, installing Jaunpur MP Shyam Singh Yadav in his place. In her statement, Mayawati said Yadav’s appointment gave greater representation to OBCs.

However, sources said Mayawati punished Ali for speaking against the government on the Triple Talaq Bill, given that the party staged a walkout in both Houses to ease the path for the government. Ali also disagreed with the party line on Article 370 when the BSP voted in favour of the government.

Source said the BSP leadership was under pressure after the Income-Tax department attached a Rs 400-crore plot owned by Mayawati’s brother and his wife in Noida. Ali is an MP from Amroha in Uttar Pradesh. He had quit Janata Dal (Secular) to join the BSP weeks before the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress has called a meeting of its office bearers on Friday to discuss the “abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir”. Party general secretaries, state chiefs and in-charges, leaders of its legislative parties in the states and chairpersons of its various departments will attend the meeting. Congress's general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, considered close to party leader Rahul Gandhi, had signed the invite.

The announcement of the meeting came a day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting had some of the younger and middle aged leaders disagreeing with the party line on the issue. Leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, R P N Singh, Avinash Pande, Deepinder Hooda, Jitin Prasada and some others told the CWC the public mood was in favour of the government’s move.

The subsequent CWC resolution did not question the decision, but the manner in which provisions of the statute were revoked. The younger leadership believes the party should have had a more nuanced position, which supported the decision, made the point that its earlier governments could not scrap the provisions since the party did not have a majority in the Lok Sabha, but also underlined that it would have implemented it differently by taking into confidence the people of Kashmir.
Several leaders are also upset with senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. They feel that Azad, who hails from Jammu, allowed his emotions to take over when the he led the Congress and rest of the opposition to sit in the Well of the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

As one party source said, Friday’s meeting has been called after the horses have bolted. The meeting has been called to explain the party line to leaders, who will then take it to party workers and the people at large on the ground. Younger leaders have asked why couldn’t the CWC have met on the issue and sought views of leaders when the party’s strategic group on Kashmir held a meeting under the leadership of former prime minister Manmohan Singh last week.

They said the party has become “orphaned” because of lax or non-existent decision-making. One example of this was evident on Wednesday, when as the Delhi state observed a day of mourning on the passing away of former external affairs minister and former Delhi chief minister Sushma Swaraj, Youth Congress workers gathered at its office in New Delhi, on a road adjacent to Swaraj’s residence, to protest against the Unnao rape case. Congress leaders visiting Swaraj’s residence were perplexed to find Youth Congress leaders with placards protesting barely 200 metres from her flat and blocking traffic.

The Left parties also demonstrated against scrapping of Article 370 in the national capital. Left leaders marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street.