A Jammu and Kashmir minister belonging to Congress has stoked a controversy by suggesting that Kashmir be granted "azadi", remarks that embarassed his party that termed them as his personal view.
Addressing a rally at Bani in Kathua district on Sunday, Congress Minister for Health and Horticulture Sham Lal Sharma had raised the demand for making Jammu a separate state, giving Union Territory status to Ladakh and granting "Azadi" to Kashmir.
"Give freedom to Kashmir, that's more beneficial. Give separate statehood status to Jammu and make Ladakh a Union Territory. If this state has to be developed, this is the only solution", Sharma said in the presence of Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz.
His remarks drew a sharp attack from state Bharatiya Janata Party which alleged they "tantamount to treason" and demanded his dismissal from the government and arrest.
In damage-control mode, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi described Sharma's remarks as his "personal view" and said the party's stand "is very clear--autonomy within the framework of the Indian Constitution".
The remarks by Sham Lal Sharma had made Soz and his senior party leaders uneasy at the rally. In fact, Soz had tried to initiate damage control and expressed his party's resolve to keep all the three regions of the state united to ensure equal and balanced development in all the regions.
"We are all answerable to All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi and what we say here be considered as the Congress word and we must speak along the party's line", Soz said.
Seeking to downplay Sharma's view, Singhvi told mediapersons in Delhi that, "I can only describe it as a personal opinion (of Sharma). He was having a discussion at rally in his own home state and certainly this is his personal view".
"Some of the words which I have heard, I can either describe it as a metaphorical speak and should not be taken literally", he said adding "in any case, we do not accept any such allegations".
BJP national executive member and former Pradesh president Nirmal Singh told mediapersons in New Delhi that "Sharma has taken oath under the Constitution and his statement tantamounts to treason and therefore an FIR should be registered against him and he should be arrested forthwith".
After making such a statement Sharma has no locus standi to be in the ministry, Singh said.