Reneging On A Promise
Just hours after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made their Jammu and Kashmir alliance official, the Centre was heard informing the Rajya Sabha that there was “no proposal under consideration” to repeal Article 370.
Though the fine-print of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) is still unknown, the PDP has been demanding a commitment from BJP on maintaining the status quo on the matter of Article 370, instead of pushing for its abrogation. And the BJP seems to have agreed.
This is in embarrassing contradiction to the promise that the BJP made in its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto, when repealing Article 370 was one of Modi’s calling cards. In June 2014, MoS Defence, Jitendra Singh, also BJP’s Jammu MP, stated that a plan to repeal Article 370 was even being worked upon by PM Narendra Modi, just days after the BJP came to power.
The Caveats Attached To Abrogating Article 370
Accepting that it was disputed territory, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 of the Constitution on 17 October 1949, granting the State of Jammu and Kashmir special status and internal autonomy.
Some argue that abrogating Article 370 could pave the way for development at a pace and scale to match the progress of the rest of the country, arguing also that development would create conditions conducive for the eventual revocation of AFSPA.
Opponents argue that repealing Article 370 would only escalate law and order problems, and no development initiatives, no investment would be possible in a turbulent environment.
Why Article 370 Cannot Be Repealed
In May 2014, when the newly sworn in Narendra Modi government sparked off a debate on the abrogation of Article 370, former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stated that under no circumstance could this Constitutional provision be repealed, given the fact that the very Constituent Assembly which brought this into effect in 1949, could “not be resurrected.”
Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari too underlined that the consent of the Constituent Assembly was needed before Article 370 could be repealed.
“Article 370 makes it very clear if you read Article 370’s section 3 that the President of India can only by notification repeal it if he has the explicit consent of the Constituent Assembly. And the Constituent Assembly has prorogued and ceased to exist. It has been dissolved and it cannot be resurrected. So obviously a bare read of the Constitutional provisions makes it clear that it is not possible even if there is a desire to repeal Article 370.”
- Manish Tewari
What this essentially means is that by no stretch of majority or power can Article 370 be repealed by any Government in Delhi.
Even as she enters into an alliance with the BJP, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has maintained that repealing Article 370 could be catastrophic. It is, in fact, a view on which she and Omar Abdullah are in full agreement.
For decades, the repeal of Article 370 has been a core political platform of the BJP, indeed of the Sangh power. Many within the Party and among its supporters may well be asking why that objective remains elusive even as the BJP prepares to be in charge of Jammu and Kashmir for the very first time.