The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday released its 48-page election manifesto titled ‘Sankalp Patra’ with 75 promises ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
A major takeaway of the BJP manifesto — a “vision document for 130 crore Indians” — is the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution of India.
Article 370 grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state. It was incorporated in India’s Constitution in October 1949. It also gives power to the state legislature to define Jammu and Kashmir’s residents and their privileges.
The Article 35A of the Indian Constitution empowers the state legislation of Jammu and Kashmir to not only define “permanent residents” of the state but also equip them with special rights and privileges. In simpler words, the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, that is the people holding the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC), have exclusive right to acquire property in the state and enjoy any state-sponsored schemes. These privileges and rights are not extended, in any way, shape or form, to any non-permanent citizen.
Repealing Article 370 and Article 35A has long been one of the core BJP promises and the demand for its abrogation had risen after the Pulwama terror attack.
Announcing the poll manifesto, Union Minister Rajnath Singh said the BJP was committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir.
“In the last five years, we have made all necessary efforts to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir through decisive actions and a firm policy. We are committed to overcoming 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 Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370,” the manifesto read.
“We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and the women of Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) and Chhamb,” it further read.
The Congress in its poll manifesto had stated that nothing will be done or allowed to change Jammu and Kashmir’s Constitutional position.
Article 35-A was proclaimed by President Rajendra Prasad on 14 May 1954 on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru government to empower the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the permanent residents of the state and their entitlements. It was drawn from the Delhi Agreement of 1952 and from Article 370 that confers special status to the state.
Doing away with Article 35-A, with its roots in Article 370, would snatch the vestige of autonomy that Jammu and Kashmir enjoys in the Indian Union.