Advani speaks to Manmohan, protests against J&K government's action
The Bharatiya Janata Party has found itself isolated politically with not even allies in the National Democratic Alliance approving its Ekta Yatra plan to hoist the tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on Republic Day.
As the Omar Abdullah government moved swiftly to prevent BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar from leaving the Jammu airport where they were detained — they had gone there to lead the last leg of the yatra and address a public meeting in Jammu on Tuesday — the party reacted here strongly, saying it was reminded of the Emergency when the Opposition's right to agitate peacefully had been snatched and Opposition leaders arrested.
While senior leader L.K. Advani called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to protest the detention, the former BJP president, Rajnath Singh, spoke to President Pratibha Patil. They said the freedom to hoist the national flag anywhere should not be jeopardised, and questioned the State government's detention and attempt at forcibly sending the leaders back to Delhi.
Mr. Singh, along with a group of party leaders and workers, would sit in protest at the Rajghat till Wednesday morning.
Despite the BJP's political isolation on this issue — even the Bihar coalition partner, the Janata Dal (United), said it disapproved of the ally's plan which could create problems in a sensitive State — party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad charged the Jammu and Kashmir government with acting at the behest of and in collusion with the Centre and the Congress.
He described the detention of the BJP leaders at the airport as undemocratic and unconstitutional, and wondered why any Indian should not be allowed to go to Jammu or Kashmir.
However, asked why the Kalyan Singh government in 1992 prevented V.P. Singh and a number of other political leaders from going to Ayodhya — they were detained in Lucknow — Mr. Prasad did not respond.
The BJP's charge was that by opposing the Ekta Yatra, the State and Central governments were “standing with the separatists” in Kashmir.
“We did not want confrontation with the political parties or people of the State. If there was any confrontation at all, it was with the separatists, [and] between the patriots and the separatists. Today the Government of India is standing with the separatists [by opposing the Yatra],” Mr. Prasad said.
Did that mean all political parties across the spectrum opposed to the Yatra — barring the BJP and perhaps the Shiv Sena all have said it should be cancelled as it could undo the peace in the State — were standing with the separatists and were unpatriotic?
Mr. Prasad's response: “This is your inference. I only said this is the message that has been conveyed [that the Centre is standing with the separatists].”
Mr. Prasad denied media reports that some known stone throwers in Srinagar were BJP sympathisers and even its office-bearers in the State. “This was a police version,” he said.