BJP to file defamation suit against Mehbooba, says MLA’s statement on Article 35A ‘unfortunate’

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Terming its MLA Gagan Bhagat’s remarks backing articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution as “unfortunate”, the BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir unit on Saturday said it would file a defamation suit against former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for “wrongly” attributing the remarks to two BJP MLAs.

Seeking to clarify that the remarks backing Article 35A was made only by Bhagat and not another BJP MLA Rajsh Gupta, the state BJP’s chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said Mehbooba wrongly attributed the remarks to both the legislators. Stating that Bhagat crossed the Lakshman Rekha by extending support to the two constitutional provisions, which form bedrock of separatism in the state, Sethi said the party’s disciplinary committee has already submitted its report to the party president for necessary action against him. Voicing his dissent over the BJP’s stand on Article 35A, the BJP legislator earlier on Saturday had warned that scrapping the constitutional provision with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha election would lead to serious consequences.

Bhagat’s remarks found mention on former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Twitter handle, where she said it was “heartening” that the BJP leaders were coming out in support of the Article 35A.

Heartening to know that two MLAs from the BJP, Rajesh Gupta followed by Dr Gagan, have raised their voice in defence of the Article 35A , Mehbooba wrote on Twitter. Addressing a hurriedly called press conference here, Sethi said the party would file a defamation suit against Mehbooba as MLA Rajesh Gupta has never made any statement over the Article 35A. We are really concerned with a statement which has come from the former chief minister attributing (the remarks of) support to the Article 35A to the two BJP legislators. 

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Gupta had never made any statement and was misquoted by a national news channel which later clarified. Mehbooba’s statement is defamation and we are taking it seriously, Sethi, flanked by Gupta, told reporters at the party headquarters here this evening. Gupta clarified that he had never made such a statement which was in fact issued by another party activist, who had joined the party in 2014.

We will issue a notice to Mehbooba and take legal action against her. It will also be brought to the notice of the Assembly Speaker for appropriate action, he said. Sethi said there is no ideological difference within the party over the issue of Article 370 and Article 35A of the constitution. The state unit is having the same view as that of the central body. The basic stand of the party is that it should go.

This is one country and should remain so, he said. He said the Article 35A is because of the Article 370 which is the main reason for separatism in the state. Asked when the party would file the defamation suit, he said the party would give Mehbooba one day to tender an apology to the legislator and have a relook at the issue, if she did it.

On Bhagat’s remarks, he said his statements defending the constitutional provisions are against the party and its interests and the disciplinary committee of the party has taken serious note of it and submitted its report to the party president for appropriate action.

Earlier on Saturday, BJP MLA Gagan Bhagat said that his party wants to gain seats by sacrificing Jammu and Kashmir.

“Article 35A is beneficial for the people of #JammuAndKashmir. When this article is scrapped nobody will go to Kashmir, they will only attack the people of Jammu. BJP wants to take seats by sacrificing J&K,” BJP MLA Gagan Bhagat was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

It is very unfortunate situation. The party is really saddened because of this development. To speak on the ideology of the party, there are forums within the party. Going public is the worst example of indiscipline, he said. Sethi, who also heads three-member disciplinary committee of the party, said he should not have done it as nobody has the right to cross the Lakshman Rekha.

Disciplinary committee has taken note of it and has submitted its report to the party president and the president is seized of the matter and will take appropriate measures on this issue, he said. Gupta said he supports the party view that the Article 35A should go as it is not in the interest of the people of the state. It is discriminatory and the biggest cause of unemployment problem in the state. It has not a single benefit, he said.