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BJP climbdown on Article 370
Venkaiah for broad consensus
Tribune News Service

BJP President Venkaiah Naidu is honoured with a Kashmiri ‘Krakul’ by BJP state President Nirmal Singh at a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday.
BJP President Venkaiah Naidu is honoured with a Kashmiri ‘Krakul’ by BJP state President Nirmal Singh at a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday.
— PTI photo

Jammu, February 18
In a climbdown from its earlier stand on abrogation of Article 370 that provides a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP President, said today that it was possible only with a broad consensus.

Mr Naidu was talking to mediapersons here after visiting Srinagar where he addressed a public meeting.

When a reporter pointed out that the BJP had been saying in the past that the special status would be abrogated in case the party came to power, Mr Naidu said as things stand today it would require a broad consensus. He said the Ram temple issue would be sorted out through talks.

He said the BJP was not in favour of the rehabilitation policy for the surrendered terrorists as it provided a better deal to those who carried the gun and ignored the common man who were reeling under a difficult situation.

He said rehabilitation policy was prepared by the PDP-Congress government and the Centre had nothing to do with it. When a mediaperson pointed out that the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had said that the policy had the backing of the Centre, Mr Naidu said the Centre had been helping the state government in restoring peace and because of this reason the Chief Minister might have misinterpreted the scheme.

Replying to questions relating to the controversy regarding the killing of five civilians in the Bandipur area, the BJP President said it had become a fashion these days to criticise the security forces on the issue of human rights violation. Instead of patting the security forces certain elements were deliberately trying to demoralise them by raking up such issues.

He said the BJP would contest all six Lok Sabha seats in the state without any alliance with any other party. However, in case of the Ladakh seat, the party would try to reach a consensus for fielding a BJP candidate.

He criticised the Mufti government for not fulfilling the election promises made by the Congress. He accused the Congress of having cheated the people of Jammu by not installing a chief minister from here and also not implementing the Wazir Commission report. He said the government had also failed to appoint the regional development boards as was provided in the common minimum programme of the coalition.

Srinagar: With his message of “peace and progress”, Mr Naidu launched an election campaign here, selling Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s peace moves. This was the maiden public speech of any BJP President during the 14-year-long militancy.

Accompanied by senior party colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and state-level BJP leaders, Mr Naidu clarified that abrogation of Article 370 and granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir remained the issue with the BJP and not that of the NDA alliance. He said the campaign would focus on three major issues — progress, leadership of Mr Vajpayee and India on the move. He claimed that the Congress was fraught with leadership crisis.

In his address at the highly-guarded Sher-i-Kashmir park, Mr Naidu sought the people’s cooperation so that they “get representation at the Centre”. “I want Kashmiris to be part of the BJP’s Mission 2004”, he said. “I invite all of you to join the BJP... think about your future” as he referred to the “misdeeds” of the National Conference and the Congress governments in the state as well as at the Centre. The BJP chief had a word of appreciation for the Mufti government. “They blame us for not having many Muslim leaders in the party”, he said, urging the Muslims to join the party and make it their own. In this connection he also referred to the presence of leaders like Mr Shahnawaz Hussain, Mr Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Mr Sikandar Bakht and many more in the party.

He said Kashmir had suffered a lot during militancy and referred to the peace moves taken by the NDA government. Referring to the peace moves taken by Mr Vajpayee in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Naidu said the hand of friendship was extended to Pakistan from here only. He hoped that a result-oriented composite Indo-Pak dialogue would take place for the restoration of peace in the region. He asked the militants to shun violence and join the mainstream, adding that ballot was the only solution and not the bullet.

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