PMO minister says govt open to debate on Article 370

Congress, NC, PDP find issues to score points after controversial remark
Last Updated 27 May 2014, 20:22 IST

The first day of the Narendra Modi government was marred by controversies ranging from a junior minister’s remarks on abrogation of Article 370 to Congress questioning the educational background of HRD Minister Smriti Irani.

Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, a first time MP, kicked off a storm saying the government was open to debate merits and demerits of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The remarks came on a day Prime Minister Modi held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif where the K-word was not discussed.

Valley objects

Singh’s statement, which he later said was a media misquote, united arch rivals National Conference and the Peoples’ Democratic Party. J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said Article 370 was the “only constitutional link between J&K and the rest of India”.

“Talk of revocation of not just ill informed. It’s irresponsible,” he said on Twitter.

The PDP said the Prime Minister and the BJP leadership should rein in Singh before his utterances about revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution cause serious damage.

Late in the night, Singh issued a statement claiming that he was “misquoted”.
Seeking to downplay the controversy, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government would take a structured view on the matter.

Smriti Irani

Meanwhile, Congress stepped up the attack on the Modi government by questioning the educational background of Irani.

“What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (Looking after Education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site, pg 11,” Ajay Maken, Chairman of the AICC Communication Department said on Twitter.

Social activist Madhu Kishwar, who is known to speak in favour of Modi, also questioned Irani’s credentials. “Smriti Irani merely Class 12 pass. Went to bcm (become) fashion model on to TV serial bahu. Is this qualification enf (enough) 4 (for) India’s Education Minister?” she said on Twitter.

Prasad, who was briefing the media on the cabinet decisions, dubbed Maken’s remarks as “unfortunate”. “The entire nation knows Smriti Irani’s leadership qualities. It is unfortunate if the Congress is targeting her educational background,” he said.

As per the affidavit filed by Irani, she has completed Bachelor of Commerce Part -1 from the School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi in 1994.

Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Baliyan too was in focus but for the wrong reasons. Baliyan was accused of inciting communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in September last year which left 60 people dead.

Asked to comment on the riots, he said he wanted to leave the riots behind and wished that peace returned to Muzaffarnagar.

Then J&K won’t be part of India: Omar

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday reacted strongly to Jitendra Singh’s statement on repealing Article 370, DHNS reports from Srinagar. Omar took to Twitter and wrote: “So the new MoS PMO says process/discussions to revoke Art 370 have started. Wow, that was a quick beginning. Not sure who is talking.” “Mark my words & save this tweet — long after Modi govt is a distant memory, either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist.” he said.

“Art 370 is the only constitutional link between J&K & rest of India. Talk of revocation is not just ill-informed, it’s irresponsible.” On Opposition PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s reaction to Singh’s statement, he said, “They (PDP) were the ones who worked to benefit the BJP in the state.”

(Published 27 May 2014, 20:22 IST)

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