The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday termed as “grandstanding”, Omar Abdullah’s invitation to its leaders to attend the Republic Day function even as seven party activists were arrested when they made a vain bid to unfurl the National Flag in Srinagar.
Describing as “unfortunate” the detention of senior leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar in Jammu, BJP president Nitin Gadkari rubbished charges that the party was playing politics over hoisting the National Flag.
Rubbishing the invitation of Mr. Omar Abdullah to attend the Republic Day function, Mr. Jaitley told PTI over phone that how he could join the event when he was under arrest.
“We are under custody for the honour of National Flag. That is the way we celebrated the Republic Day. Many of activists were arrested or detained,” he said.
“We are under arrest even after the parade was over. That proves how serious Omar Abdullah was on the invite. Hundreds of our supporters were still being arrested,” Mr. Jaitley said.
He said many activists tried to hoist the flag at Lal Chowk on Wednesday but were arrested.
Mr. Jaitley said it is “grandstanding” as they were in custody while Mr. Omar Abdullah hoisted the National Flag.
Mr. Gadkari told reporters on the sidelines of the National Flag hoisting function at the party headquarters in New Delhi, “Some people say there is politics in hoisting the National Flag at Lal Chowk. I don’t understand what politics can there be in hoisting the flag... This is not politics.”
Mr. Gadkari alleged that the Centre and the Omar Abdullah government were bowing to pressure from the separatists.
Speaking to reporters in Kathua, 70 km from Jammu, BJP’s youth wing national president Anurag Thakur said Mr. Omar Abdullah’s offer to attend Republic Day function either in Jammu or in Srinagar was a mere lip service.
“It is a lip service by him (Omar). We do not give credence to it…,” he said.
The Chief Minister had invited BJP leaders to be State guests at the R-Day functions either in Jammu or Srinagar.
Meanwhile, former BJP president Rajnath Singh ended his hunger strike over the issue in Delhi on Wednesday morning after Mr. Gadkari requested him to do so.
Meanwhile, Ms. Swaraj on Wednesday attacked the Jammu and Kashmir government for arresting the Leaders of Opposition from both Houses of Parliament while making a “farce” of inviting them to the official Republic Day parade in Srinagar.
“This is an extra-ordinary situation. India completes 61 years of being a Republic. This is the first Republic Day after Emergency when the Leaders of Opposition of both Houses of Parliament were kept under arrest. And our fault was that we were entering Jammu and Kashmir and for this crime we were arrested,” she said.
Ms. Swaraj, along with senior party leaders Mr. Jaitley and Mr. Kumar among others, was talking to reporters after being released by the J&K government in the afternoon.
“My first question to the government is what kind of a Republic is this,” Ms. Swaraj asked.
“Yesterday night, we also got a farcical invitation when Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister invited us to take part in the official function in Srinagar. Was he not aware that we were under arrest,” she said.
Ms. Swaraj said she and other BJP leaders were released only at 12.40 p.m. while the official parade started at 10 a.m.
“Our invitation is that you (Mr. Omar Abdullah) join us and unfurl the National Flag at Lal Chowk,” she said.
She maintained that it was not an ordinary event and likened it to the Emergency days when the entire opposition was in jail.
“We were not allowed to land in Jammu. Then we were told to go back. When we did not relent, they kept us out of the State,” Ms. Swaraj said.