BJP’s leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj fended off a question on party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi demanding at a rally in Jammu debate by the people of Jammu and Kashmir whether Article 370, which grants special status to the state, has proved beneficial to the people of the state. Swaraj said there was no difference between the position of party-founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee and that of Modi. Mookerjee sought the abrogation of Article 370 and he died when in a prison in Jammu and Kashmir in 1951.
It seemed that Modi’s statement was an intelligent gambit of demanding a debate on Article 370 as a prelude to demand its abrogation, and that Modi was steering the party’s agenda back to its core issues.
Responding to a dna query whether BJP was getting back to its core agenda comprising the three contentious issues – abrogation of Article 370, implementation of uniform civil code in conformity with the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV of the Constitution) and the building of Ram temple in Ayodhya – for the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Swaraj said the party’s position will become clear at the time of declaring the manifesto, which was an indication that Modi’s position is not that of the party as yet.
Another senior parliamentary leader of the party said, half in jest, that the party will take up those three issues when it has a two-thirds majority in Parliament, hinting that there was no likelihood of reviving the hardcore agenda of the BJP as of now. He however clarified that the BJP had not abandoned those three issues. It was in 1998 that BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed to put the party’s hardcore agenda on a back-burner when it forged the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of 23 parties. It was understood by Vajpayee and other senior leaders in the BJP that these issues will be taken up only if the party comes to power on the basis of its own majority and it is not dependent on allies who did not share BJP’s ideological commitment.
Meanwhile, Modi in a tweet reiterated his demand for a debate on Article 370, but expanded the scope of the debate to include everything regarding Jammu and Kashmir. Though he did not mention the plight of Kashmiri Pandits directly, he said issues pertaining to sections of J&K society should be taken up as well. Without retracting his statement on Article 370, it seems that Modi too felt the need to issue a clarification on the subject.
It seems that Modi’s spur-of-the-moment utterances, which are meant to embellish rhetoric at public rallies, could sometimes affect the party’s calibrated stance on controversial issues in an election year, when it is hopeful of attracting allies to form a government next summer.