Since the time Article 370 was introduced in Constitution about seven decades ago, giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, a vast mass of people in the country felt that a gross injustice was committed to the nation. Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder and MP from Calcutta Shyama Prasad Mukherjee led a movement for the abrogation of this article and came out with a catchy slogan "ek desh do vidhan, do pradhan, do nishan nahi chalega".
Mukherjee died in custody in Kashmir under mysterious circumstances in June 1953. Since then the slogan given by him had become an article of faith for the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and its later avatar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party at the Centre. But then a large number of BJP and Sangh Parivar workers and an overwhelming number of people in the country who wished that Article 370 be abolished never believed this would happen in reality any time soon.
Based on doomsday predictions made by Kashmiri party leaders and hue and cry made by liberals, it was said that no government, no national political party will ever have the courage to abrogate the special provisions of Article 370, which give a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Sixty-six years after the death of Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday displayed what a strong full majority government with a strong political will could do. It did not just take away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by repealing the most contentious provision of the Constitution of India, but also bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The move speaks volume of the style of functioning of Modi and the newly made home minister Amit Shah. This was BJP’s pre-poll promise as well as was part of the party’s vision documents. But it was beyond the expectations of even seasoned BJP leaders within and outside of the government that the decision would come so soon after Modi's return to power at the Centre.
Modi has by now acquired the reputation of introducing a surprise element in all big decisions, be it related to major appointments or major policy decisions. He and Shah have done the same with respect to stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and abolishing Article 370 of the Constitution.
Consider this: first, from the turn of events, one can assess how swiftly the government moved and that while maintaining the confidentiality of major decisions. About half an hour after the Cabinet met and Amit Shah rose to speak in the Rajya Sabha, the Presidential Order was notified in the Official Gazette in Hindi and English, and the over 115-page-long Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, dividing the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, was ready to be moved on the floor of the Parliament. While all this was being prepared, and the decision went through multiple stages and multiple places, there was no leakage. Despite the security build-up, everyone was taken by surprise by the enormity of what Shah read out from a prepared speech in the Upper House.
Second, till a week ago, it was considered that the Government was on a weak footing in the Rajya Sabha and no matter how strong majority the Modi government had in Lok Sabha, it had difficulty in meeting the Upper House challenge. Under the circumstances, the fact that Modi-Shah decided to move four bills on Kashmir including perhaps the most contentious bill of Independent India in Rajya Sabha, speaks of the kind of confidence they had in their ability to manoeuvre and the response the Bill would ultimately elicit from various parties.
Third, most political parties in the Opposition except Congress, Trinamool, SP, Left parties and DMK couldn’t muster the courage to oppose the Bill. JD(U) and NCP orally opposed the bill but decided to walk out, a move that effectively helped the government in passing all four resolutions and bills. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was first to come in the support of the government on this critical issue, YSRCP, TDP, BJD, Aam Admi Party quickly followed the suit. The thinking among these parties was clear that the parties opposing the Bill would be at the receiving end and they didn’t want to be on the wrong side of that growing nationalist mood.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who has been rooting for full statehood of Delhi was one of those who made their position on the issue known without loss of time. Delhi is to go for Assembly election in the next few months and Kejriwal surely didn’t want to lose all the goodwill he had created through his education and health schemes and freebies that he had lately offered.
The newly created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will broadly have the same powers as that of the NCT of Delhi and Puducherry. If that be the case, the Lieutenant Governor will be the administrative head of Jammu and Kashmir and the chief minister as and when elected will only have to deal with issues like education, health, road, power, sanitation. Law and order will be a Union subject. It should also be noted that there are panchayat and municipal corporations whose elections were recently held.
The leaders from Kashmir who till other day had been talking of autonomy now have a more mundane issue to ponder.
The ‘temporary, transitional and special provisions’ of Article 370 is now gone for the good of the nation.
Updated Date: Aug 05, 2019 22:14:40 IST