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'How can you call anybody anti-national for talking about Article 370?'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: February 03, 2017 10:58 IST
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'We have been fighting for the last 70 years on the issue of Article 370.'

IMAGE: Pandemonium prevails during the budget session of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly as Opposition leaders protest Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's 'anti-national' remark. Photograph: PTI Photo

Noisy scenes were witnessed in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that those opposing Article 370 of the Constitution were anti-nationals on Tuesday.

Bharatiya Janata Party legislators, led by BJP MLA Rajiv Jasrotia, demanded that the chief minister's remarks be expunged, which the speaker eventually agreed to.

It was the first time in the history of the state that a chief minister's remarks in the House were expunged by the assembly speaker.

Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf asked Jasrotia, below, left, why he wanted Mehbooba's remarks on Article 370 erased.

The BJP, by the way, is Mufti's partner in the state government.

What happened in the assembly after Chief Minister Mufti said what she did?

The budget session was underway in the assembly and grants for many departments like the home ministry and tourism were supposed to passed. During that time, Mehbooba Mufti made those remarks.

What did you say then?

We said that every political party in Jammu and Kashmir has a different ideology.

Be it the PDP, the National Conference or the BJP.

Everybody has the right to have a different viewpoint.

We cannot call anybody who talks about Article 370 anti-national.

Therefore, I requested the honourable speaker that he should expunge the remarks because we have been fighting for the last 70 years on the issue of Article 370 (that it should be scrapped).

What is the situation between the two parties after the speaker expunged her remarks?

I will not talk about it, but my party will. This is a party policy matter.

Since the BJP is the PDP's coalition partner, don't you think it sends out a wrong message to the people of the state when you fight openly in the assembly on such issues?

I have to speak for what I stand for.

This is my party's stance and we too stand for this.

A coalition dharma needs to be followed, but I have to reply in the House (on Article 370) because I have been elected by the people of J&K.

Why do you need to have a dispute about Article 370 in the assembly then?

I did not start the argument. The BJP did not start it.

I reminded the honourable Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that we have to follow our alliance.

IMAGE: National Conference MLAs being marshalled out of the assembly after they tried to jump into the well of the House. Photograph: PTI Photo

Did you ask for an apology from Mehbooba Mufti?

I requested on the floor of the House that the remarks must be expunged.

Why can't we see peace between the BJP and PDP?

The BJP and PDP are running a peaceful government in the state. But sometimes these issues get highlighted.

This is the beauty of democracy that everybody has a right to have their viewpoint.

How is the coalition government functioning now?

On the development point of view, we are far ahead.

In the last two years, we have done lots of good work in the state.

In fact, we have done more good work in the last two years compared to the last 70 years.

Can you tell us about some of your government's achievements?

An IIT and IIM have come in Jammu and Kashmir. Many medical colleges have opened in the state.

Even a cancer hospital has opened in the state.

This is the first time that we have spent Rs 43,000 crore on highways.

Every constituency has development package.

But all this never comes to light. Only the disputes between the BJP and PDP get highlighted.

I agree. This is our shortcoming. I admit that.

We have not highlighted our achievements.

Do both parties try to solve the core differences in ideology with each other?

There are differences and after lots of discussions we came to an understanding about this alliance.

We waited for three months before forming the government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Do you think the alliance will last?

I hope so. (Good) sense will prevail.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com