NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) success in revoking Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, signals a political realignment, as this is the latest in a string of key bills for which the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has got parliamentary sanction.
The BJP leadership has carried out its core agenda by revoking Article 370 just two months after returning to power with a huge majority in the Lok Sabha, with the remaining two controversial issues—of an uniform civil code and the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya—in the works.
The Union government on Monday pushed through the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir with support from alliance partners and a divided Opposition. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) staged a walkout. However, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supported the government on the issue.
“I do not know whether the BJP is able to set the narrative because of its own success or the dismal failure of the opposition, which has not been able to get its act together," said Sandeep Shastri, national coordinator of Lokniti Network, the research programme of the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), and pro vice-chancellor of Jain University, Bengaluru.
All key alliance parties, including the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), supported the legislation. The only exception was the Janata Dal (United) led by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, whose members walked out during voting in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
The NDA’s gradual consolidation in the Rajya Sabha has happened at the cost of the Congress party being increasingly isolated, particularly in terms of gaining issue-based support from other opposition parties.
The day spelt trouble for the Congress in the Upper House, especially after its chief whip, Bhubaneswar Kalita, resigned over the party’s opposition to Article 370.
“Non-NDA parties supported perhaps because, outside Jammu and Kashmir, there is a larger sentiment that this issue needed to be resolved. Whether it will happen through this route, or not, the BJP is seen doing something. There is also this feeling among such parties that they cannot oppose it, given the popular sentiment for the issue in the rest of the country," Shastri said.
The isolation of the Congress in Parliament and the growing internal troubles follow a leadership crisis after Rahul Gandhi resigned as party president two months ago. The Congress is yet to find someone for the post. The party will hold a meeting of its top decision making body on 10 August.
Senior party leaders said the developments in Parliament and the BJP’s growing political dominance could trigger more internal strife and desertion from the party.
“In the last five years, we have made all efforts to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir through decisive action and a firm policy. We are committed to overcome all obstacles that come in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state. We reiterate our position since the time of the Jana Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370," its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections read.
The development also comes just months ahead of key state elections in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Haryana, slated to be held later this year. The scrapping of Article 370 could be the BJP’s key campaign cry for the state elections.
Elections in J&K were scheduled to be held later this year, but the Election Commission will take a call on the issue once the parliamentary and administrative proceedings are over. Related bills, such as the one on the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir, is likely be sent to the Lok Sabha on Tuesday for approval.