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'Change Should've Been Brought With Goodwill of J&K People': Manmohan Singh Hits out at BJP Govt

The economist-turned-politician also said that agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) should not be used to settle "political scores".


Updated:October 17, 2019, 4:49 PM IST
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'Change Should've Been Brought With Goodwill of J&K People': Manmohan Singh Hits out at BJP Govt
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the Congress had voted in favour of the bill to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the party had only raised a problem with its implementation.

Singh said the Congress opposes the "high-handedness" with which Article 370 of the Constitution — which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir — was introduced in Parliament in August.

“We believe Article 370 is a temporary measure but if a change has to be brought, it should be with the goodwill of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the senior Congress leader said at a press conference here.

Singh's comments come a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi fired acerbic comments at the Opposition for questioning the BJP for linking Article 370 with the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly polls. "They should be ashamed of such thoughts. Don’t they have any shame? 'Doob maro, doob maro' (go drown)," Modi had said at an election rally.

The economist-turned-politician also said that agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) should not be used to settle "political scores". Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel are being currently investigated by the ED in various cases.

The ED, under the NDA regime, has got more powers than ever, and should not be used for political vendetta against leaders of "different hues", Singh said. "Our hope is these powers will be used not to settle political scores," he said, expressing confidence that the government will do justice to Patel.

The government's move to abrogate Article 370 had led to deep chasm within the Congress. While the party’s top brass, such as former president Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, repeatedly called the decision an abuse of power and even led delegations to the Valley, several including Jyotiraditya Scindia expressed support for the move.

Former Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora had also made his support known by saying that "parties should put aside ideological fixations and debate what's best for India's sovereignty and federalism, peace in J&K, jobs for Kashmiri youth and justice for Kashmiri Pandits".

Interestingly, most of the leaders who “broke ranks” on the issue are considered Rahul Gandhi’s close associates. Singh, however, remained unfazed with the differing stands within the party as he said their main concern has always been the manner in which the move had been implemented.

Singh also replied to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Modi’s repeated criticism against the Congress for not taking a stand on nationalism because of vote bank politics, saying that Congress doesn't need a certificate on patriotism from BJP and RSS.

Asked about the BJP's poll promise to seek Bharat Ratna for VD Savarkar, who was an accused in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case but was acquitted, Singh said the Congress only opposes Savarkar's Hindutva ideology.

Referring to the Hindu Mahasabha leader with a reverential "Savarkar ji", Singh said former Congress prime minister, the late Indira Gandhi, had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar's memory. "(But) we are not in favour of the Hindutva ideology that Savarkar ji patronised and stood for," Singh said.

Singh also hit out at the NDA government's Citizenship Amendment Bill, calling it a divisive move that discriminates against Muslims by facilitating Indian citizenship for persons of all faiths except them. He also claimed that for the first time in the history of Parliament, such a divisive bill has been tabled.

On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, Singh said the BJP expected it will exclude Muslims, but 12 lakh out of the 19 lakh people who could not establish their citizenship status were Bengali Hindus.

There is a need to look at things in objective manner in matters such as the NRC, and while people would want to identify foreign nationals and ensure they do not get any benefits, we need to look at the issue with full sympathy as a "human problem", Singh said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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