PM Modi accuses Congress of supporting those who want Azadi in Kashmir

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"Shamelessly, they are... lending their voice for Kashmir's azadi... using language... used by the separatists in Kashmir (and)... spoken by Pakistan", Modi said without naming anyone. "Instead of learning from its past mistakes, Cong wants to precipitate a crisis further for this country, he said adding that 10 years of the UPA Government was a wasted opportunity on J&K, not a single initiative worked".

"The demand in Kashmir Valley is to respect in letter and spirit Article 370". Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday told reporters that the "party's position with regard to azadi or greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir was against the national interest".

Chidambaram, a former Union home minister, had said in poll-bound Gujarat's Rajkot on Saturday that when people of Jammu and Kashmir ask for "azadi", majority mean they want greater autonomy.

Taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its policy on Jammu and Kashmir, Surjewala said: "Forty-one months of NDA-BJP regime has seen the situation deteriorate rapidly with terrorism on the rise, border ceasefire violations at an all-time high and our security forces valiantly fighting the onslaught of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism on a daily basis". "The PM is imagining a ghost and attacking it", he told PTI.

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Union Minister Smriti Irani too slammed the senior Congress leader over his statement on Kashmir. After humiliating defeats, some Congressmen tried to bring the party back on track but had given up as they found it impossible to carry out reforms, he said. The Congress has distanced itself from the statement and described it as the "opinion of an individual". "Jammu and Kashmir will remain an integral part of India with some amount of autonomy", the former federal home minister said.

Chidambaram had in July 2016 advocated greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, saying India should restore the "grand bargain" under which Kashmir had acceded by granting a large degree of autonomy to it.

As the comment drew stinging criticism from the BJP and the NDA government, the Congress fielded its chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala to distance the party from Mr Chidambaram's statement.

The PM said he felt Congressmen would correct their mistakes after the party was wiped out in nearly all states, but their arrogance had not subsided yet.

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