New Delhi: Distancing itself and taking a different stand from senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram's remark on Jammu and Kashmir, the party on Sunday said the state is an integral part of India and will always remain so.
Chidambaram, the former Union Home Minister, on Saturday said the appointment of an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir was a "diversionary" tactic and felt the "Azadi" demand meant people want autonomy which should be seriously examined.
"While individuals may have different personal opinions, Congress believes that the solution for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir lies solely within the framework of Constitution," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala in a statement.
"Opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the Congress party. In our democracy, individuals are entitled to opinions," he added.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also hit out at Chidambaram and sought a clarification from Congress.
"It's a serious issue whether statement that has come from a prominent Congress leader is Congress' official stand or not? Congress should clarify immediately.
"The position Congress has taken with regard to 'Azadi' or autonomy to be given to Jammu and Kashmir, goes directly contrary to India's national interest," said Jaitley.
The Congress has slammed the Narendra Modi government for not having any clear-cut policy to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and also tackle terrorism.
"Congress has always believed that dialogue and discussion is the way forward for restoration of normalcy in the state, but it can only be within the framework of our Constitution. This is non-negotiable," Surjewala further said.
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."
"A power hungry coalition of PDP-BJP in Jammu and Kashmir has utterly failed to restore normalcy in the state with BJP government at the Centre having no clear-cut policy either on tackling terrorism or on restoration of normalcy in the state," he said.
"Congress has always worked towards providing equal development, equal financial allocation and equal opportunities to the three regions of state of Jammu and Kashmir," he added.
Surjewala further said: "Ten years of UPA-Congress government proved to be a watershed in restoring normalcy, promoting economic activity and tourism, creating infrastructural development, engaging with the people within the framework of our Constitution and fighting terrorism/militancy decisively."