The Congress on Sunday said the party had “diluted Article 370” around 12 times, but had not stirred controversy over it, PTI reported. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said Congress’s stand on scrapping Jammu and Kashmir’s special status had not changed, but it opposed the way the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party annulled it.

“Not once or twice, but the Congress party diluted Article 370 as many as 12 times, but without letting any controversy break out,” Khera said at a press conference in Dehradun. The nation’s affairs were conducted through dialogue and not controversies, he added.

The Congress leader claimed that while his party understood this, the BJP did not as its politics was based on controversies.

On August 5, India stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the region into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. These came into existence on October 31.

Khera also accused the saffron party-led central government of not implementing Goods and Services Tax properly, and said it had affected small enterprises, manufacturers and pushed farmers to the verge of ruin.

Khera attributed the economic slowdown to demonetisation and said a similar move during former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s time had not caused any disruptions. “There used to be in circulation in those days Rs 10,000 notes, which were banned when Mrs [Indira] Gandhi was the prime minister but no one had to queue up outside banks nor was there any controversy,” he said.

The Congress leader raised concerns over the regional free trade deal, and said if India signed the agreement it would affect small businessmen, farmers, and manufacturers. Khera said Chinese products in Indian markets already had an impact. “Now the government wants even milk to be imported from New Zealand and Australia,” he added.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal, comprising of 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations along with India, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, is negotiating a free trade pact.

Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday had criticised the government on the condition of the economy, and said that the RCEP deal would lead to “untold hardship” for farmers, shop owners and small ventures.

Union minister Piyush Goyal had however countered Gandhi’s claim, saying that India joined in the negotiations for the deal during the United Progressive Alliance’s time.

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