On Saturday, speaking at an event in Gujarat’s Rajkot, former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said that when most people of Jammu and Kashmir seek Azadi, they mean greater autonomy, reported NDTV.

Reacting to it, BJP slammed Chidambaram for his remarks and accused the Congress of encouraging separatism in the state. Congress, on the other hand, has also distanced itself from his remarks.

“The demand in Kashmir is to respect in letter and spirit the Article 370 and that means they want greater autonomy. My interactions in Jammu and Kashmir led me to the conclusion that when they ask for Azadi, overwhelming majority wants autonomy.”

“I think we should seriously examine the question (of autonomy to J&K) and consider on what areas we can give autonomy. It’s perfectly within the Constitution of India. Jammu and Kashmir will remain an integral part of India, but it will have larger powers as promised under Article 370,” Chidambaram said during an interactive session in Rajkot.

Congress distances itself from his statement

Jumping into action on Friday, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala organized a press conference in which he said, “Jammu-Kashmir & Ladakh is an integral part of Indian Union and will always remain so unquestionably….Opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the Indian National Congress. In our democracy, individuals are entitled to opinions.”

“Congress has always worked towards providing equal development, equal financial allocation and equal opportunities to the three regions of State of Jammu & Kashmir,” he said reported Indian Express.

BJP criticises Chidambaram for his remarks

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said his comments were not only shocking but also “disgusting”.

On Saturday Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also slammed P Chidambaram. “The position that the Congress has taken with regard to azaadi or autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir goes directly contrary to India’s national interest,” 

“I think the Congress is deceiving the whole country, it is deceiving itself and it is encouraging separatism in J&K. It is hurting India’s national interest and this is a very serious issue,” he said, reported News18.

In an interview to The Wire Chidambaram had also described the appointment of an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir as a “diversionary” tactic.

Surprisingly in 2010, Chidambaram as the home minister in the United Progressive Alliance government appointed three interlocutors — late journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Information Commissioner Prof M M Ansari and trustee of Delhi Policy Group Prof (Mrs) Radha Kumar for a dialogue with all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir.