The cabinet meeting that cleared the proposals for nullification of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir lasted “just seven minutes” and Union home minister Amit Shah’s references to them were greeted by laud applause from the ministers present, a person privy to the matter said.
Earlier this week, Parliament cleared the Narendra Modi government’s proposals to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status -- a long-standing promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party -- and carve the state into two Union territories that would allow New Delhi direct control in matters of law and order and other critical issues.
“The moment Amit Shah referred to Article 370, ministers started thumping the desk. It was an emotional moment in the cabinet meeting,” the person mentioned above said. “Most of those who are in Modi’s cabinet follow the ideology of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, who gave his life for the integration of Kashmir with the rest of India.”
The move was kept a closely guarded secret between Modi, Shah and a few others. More people were involved just a few days before the bill and presidential order was brought before the Rajya Sabha.
The decision to bring the matter first to the Rajya Sabha, where the government does not have a majority on its own, was a carefully thought-out stratagem to take the Opposition by surprise. “The Opposition was caught off-guard, completely,” the person quoted above said. “That was our purpose.”
The government’s floor managers in Parliament had sounded out some opposition parties in advance about an important business in the Rajya Sabha, but the “subject” was conveyed to them only after the cabinet cleared the proposal.
“The leaders of these opposition parties who supported us saw a point in our move and decided to back it,” the person said.
A senior minister said a lot of homework had gone into the drafting of the bill and it would stand any scrutiny in a court of law. The BJP has planned an elaborate programme to celebrate the decision, including asking every BJP-ruled state to pass a resolution in the state Assembly hailing Modi and Shah.