NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: A Minister in the Prime Minister's Office today kicked up a controversy with his remarks that efforts will be made to "convince" the "unconvinced" on abrogation of Article 370, evoking sharp retorts from J and K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and PDP.
First-time Lok Sabha member Jitendra Singh, who was a surprise choice as Minister of State in the PMO, said government is open to debate merits and demerits of Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
He went on to state that efforts would be made to "convince" the "unconvinced" by holding contact programmes with every section of society in the state on the issue.
57-year-old Singh, who was elected from Udhampur Lok Sabha seat, said BJP was working "very professionally" on this issue and has been calling meetings in the Kashmir Valley.
"We have succeeded in convincing some of them (on repealing Article 370)," he told reporters after taking over as Minister for state for Department of Personnel and Training.
However, his statement drew angry reaction from Omar who shot off his tweets saying Article 370 was the "ONLY Constitutional link" between the state and the rest of the country.
Omar said "Mark my words and save this tweet - long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won't be part of India or Art 370 will still exist."
He wondered over the statement about Article 370 coming so soon. "So the new MoS PMO says process/discussions to revoke Art 370 have started. Wow, that was a quick beginning. Not sure who is talking."
PDP said the Prime Minister and the BJP leadership should rein in Singh before his utterances about revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution cause serious damage.
Late tonight, the Minister issued a statement saying he has been "misquoted" in media reports.
"I seek to clarify that the reports in the media about my statement on Article 370 are misquoted. I have never said anything quoting the Honourable Prime Minister. The controversy is totally baseless," he said in a statement.
Government sought to downplay the controversy. "We will take a call...You saw what we said during the (election) campaign... The government will take a structured view on this," Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here after Cabinet meeting in response to a question.
Omar also hit out at the state's main opposition Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, accusing it of benefiting the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections by way of "tacit understanding".
"What is PDP getting agitated about? They were the ones who worked for BJP's benefit in the state with their tacit understanding," he said.