Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party was bringing up Article 370 repeatedly to divert attention from actual issues. Unemployment, farmers’ troubles, and failing industries were actual election issues that needed attention, he told the Hindustan Times on Wednesday.

Article 370 of the Constitution gave Jammu and Kashmir its special status, which the Centre revoked in August.

“To divert attention from them [unemployment, farming crisis and industries], [the BJP] is again and again bringing up Article 370,” Pawar said. “The prime minister is saying, ‘Mr Pawar should make his position clear about it in the manifesto.’ Firstly, our manifesto has been released. And when [Article] 370 has been removed, what can we say now? I made a public statement that it is a good thing, it has been removed.”

He added: “I ask at every public meeting, who wants to go get land there [in J&K] and start agriculture and nobody says they want to go. What about [Article 371]? If I have to buy land in Nagaland, Sikkim, I cannot in any part of the northeast. These are not issues of the public at large.”

Pawar alleged that the government interferes whenever farmers get good prices. “Take the case of onion farmers,” Pawar said. “When they started getting [good] prices, the government banned onion exports... All these policies are affecting agriculture. There is no control over the prices of fertilisers and seeds.”

The NCP chief added that the Assembly elections in Maharashtra were not a one-sided fight. “I do not understand that if it is a one-sided fight, why is the prime minister addressing nine public meetings here,” Pawar asked. “Why is the Union home minister addressing 20 meetings? Why are they spending so much time here? The BJP leadership from across India; their members of Parliament are here and visiting every corner of the state. It shows the situation is not favourable for them.” Only those who do not know the ground realities of India are saying it will be a one-sided fight, he said.

Maharashtra will go to polls on October 21, and the results will be out on October 24.

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