PATNA: The special status of Kashmir is now over and Article 370 is “behind us”, a key leader of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United said today in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. RCP Singh, a leader considered close to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, also explained the party’s opposition against the government’s Kashmir move as a gesture of respect to party founder George Fernandes.
The Janata Dal United, Mr Singh said, spoke out against ending of special status under Article 370 for the people of Kashmir and reducing it to Union Territory as George Fernandes had “laid down in 1996 that there should be no tinkering with Article 370 and going against it would have hurt the departed soul”.
In Lok Sabha, senior JDU leader Rajiv Ranjan tried to reinforce the message, saying, “We are with the Centre in any attempt to curb terrorism”.
This explanation of the party’s opposition is seen as an effort by the JDU to distance itself from its earlier stance.
Earlier this week, the party’s six MPs had walked out during the debate in Parliament over the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation bill.
Many now say the JDU has now realised how the bill enjoys the people’s support – “sadan se sarak tak (from the parliament to the road)” is how one party source put it.
Despite his alliance with the BJP, Nitish Kumar has often made it a point to differ with the larger ally and stick to it his stance. The most recent example, apart from Kashmir, was the bill to ban Triple Talaq.
His party leaders now admit in private that Mr Kumar has realised that the opposition to the Triple Talaq ban had limited appeal and in the current case, the party’s rank and file were feeling uncomfortable with the stance adopted.
A perception is gaining ground that the party is toeing the anti-BJP line just to garner the Muslim votes, leaders said, which might hurt the JDU in coming assembly election in view of the BJP’s growing support base in the state.
Mr Kumar has put on hold the release of his party’s manifesto on the request of BJP, which wanted some changes.
The JDU, it was suggested, should excise the portions on its stand on the uniform civil code, Article 370 and the Ram temple in Ayodhya as it would give unnecessary fodder to opposition. Mr Kumar’s party is at odds with the BJP over all of it and in past, had made its views clear.
The two parties — despite their growing rift that started with the dispute over ministerial berths at the centre — will contest the assembly elections together and Nitish Kumar has been projected as the prospective Chief Minister.