Congress backed scrapping of Article 370: Manmohan

Congress senior leader and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. PTI Photo

The Congress does not need a certificate of patriotism from anyone, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday, pointing out that it voted in favour of the abrogation of Article 370, but opposed the high-handed way in which it was done.

The economist-turned-politician also said that agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) should not be used to settle "political scores".

Singh's comments came at a time when prime minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have been attacking Congress on Article 370 during the campaign for the Maharashtra Assembly polls, while NCP leaders including Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel are being investigated by the ED in various cases.

Addressing a press conference here, Singh said the Congress opposes the "high-handedness" with which Article 370 of the Constitution -- which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir -- was introduced in Parliament.

Earning goodwill of the people of Jammu & Kashmir was necessary before such a move, the former prime minister said.

"Congress voted in favour of the move (the abrogation) in Parliament, not against it. Congress feels that Article 370 is a temporary measure, but if a change is to be brought, it has to be with the goodwill of the people of J&K," he said.

The ED, under the NDA regime, has got more powers than ever, and should not be used for political vendetta against leaders of "different hues", Singh said.

"Our hope is these powers will be used not to settle political scores," he said, expressing confidence that the government will do justice to Praful Patel.

Asked about the BJP's poll promise to seek Bharat Ratna for V D Savarkar, who was an accused in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case but was acquitted, Singh said the Congress only opposes Savarkar's Hindutva ideology.

Referring to the Hindu Mahasabha leader with a reverential "Savarkar-ji", Singh said former Congress prime minister, late Indira Gandhi had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar's memory.

"(But) we are not in favour of the Hindutva ideology that Savarkar-ji patronised and stood for," Singh said.

Singh also hit out against the NDA government's Citizenship Amendment Bill, calling it a divisive move that discriminates against the Muslims by facilitating Indian citizenship for persons of all faiths except Muslims.

He also claimed that for the first time in the history of Parliament such a divisive bill has been tabled.

On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, Singh said the BJP expected that it will exclude Muslims, but 12 lakh out of the 19 lakh people who could not establish their citizenship status were Bengali Hindus.

There is a need to look at things in an objective manner in matters such as the NRC, and while people would want to identify foreign nationals and ensure they do not get any benefits, we need to look at the issue with full sympathy as a "human problem", Singh said.

Congress does not need anyone's certificate about its patriotic credentials, as its record during the freedom struggle is well-known, he said, adding that the BJP or its parent RSS were not part of the nationalist movement. 

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