Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said Article 370 was not an obstacle in the development of Jammu and Kashmir, and claimed that the erstwhile state had performed better that national average on 30 indices.
The former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir also claimed that he never ruled out the possibility of the restoration of Article 370, but said it could be a time-consuming process, adding only Prime Minister Narendra Modi could do so immediately.
“It (Article 370) was not an obstacle. (As the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir), I introduced a three-shift work system, Assembly sittings were held six days a week, roads were built, a network of schools and colleges was created and environment clearances were given,” Azad told reporters in Srinagar.
The former Union minister, who recently quit the Congress, said he had even countered Prime Minister Modi in Parliament on Article 370.
“I have countered the prime minister and the home minister in Parliament on this issue. I have highlighted 30 indices where Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 outperformed the national average and 40 indices where it fared better than Gujarat.
“I had said in Parliament that since Jammu and Kashmir was better on most indices, Gujarat should instead be made a Union territory and a Lieutenant Governor be sent there,” he added.
On the restoration of Article 370, Mr Azad said he never ruled out its possibility but was of the opinion that it could consume time.
“I have not said Article 370 cannot be restored. Either it will be restored by Modi, like he did with the (repeal of) farm laws as he has the majority, or there should be a two-third majority in Parliament. I cannot convince him or his cabinet on this,” he said.
Azad said according to the details he received from Parliament, 86 per cent members in the Lok Sabha — the BJP and eight other parties — were in favour of the abrogation while 14 per cent were against it.
“Can any party from here (Jammu and Kashmir) get 86 per cent? We can pray that some day we get the two-third majority but it cannot be today, it cannot be in March next year. If it has to happen by December (this year), only Modi Sahib can do it,” he said.
The other route is the Supreme Court, he said.
“More than three years have passed since the case is in the Supreme Court. Many Chief Justices have changed since then, but not one has opened even the first page of the petition. No date has been given for hearing it. If proceedings start, how many years will it take and in whose favour will it be decided, we do not know.
“So, we will not come up with any slogan which is not fair, just and possible. I dont want to give any false hopes, whether people vote for us or not,” he said.
Azad said while Article 370 deserves respect, there are other issues, too, which need to be corrected in terms of development and governance.
“We cannot sit idle till Article 370 is restored,” he said.
On the allegation that he was playing second fiddle to the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, Azad said it was not him but some leaders in the Congress who were helping the BJP in achieving a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.
“I am accused of being a friend of the BJP. The real friends of the BJP are those who are helping in establishing a Congress-mukt Bharat. This is my counter allegation on them,” he said.
Azad said the Congress leaders were levelling the allegation against him as Prime Minister Narendra Modi got emotional during his farewell in Rajya Sabha.
“I must have done some good work…because this prime minister does not shed tears for anyone just like that. Just run a search for my speeches in Parliament, and you will see the verbal exchnages I have had with the prime minister. Going by those speeches, Modi Sahib should have put me in jail, but he said he has seen all my documents during my tenure as the chief minister, he has seen my notes against corruption. That’s (the corruption) what the BJP is tracking today,” he said.
Mr Azad said the Congress could have encashed the fact that the prime minister cried for him.
“But what did you do? You keep abusing the prime minister 24 hours a day. The result is that you lost even your own seat. When you keep abusing someone, that person gets sympathy from the people,” he said, without naming Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.