Stage set for showdown over BJP’s Ekta Yatra

BJP is determined to press ahead with its plan to hoist flag in Srinagar on Jan 26.

Zeenews Bureau

Jammu/Pathankot: A day after BJP’s three top leaders were forcefully sent back from Jammu and Kashmir to thwart the controversial flag-hoisting in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on January 26, the saffron party Tuesday appeared determined to press ahead with its plans setting the stage for another day of showdown.

The stand-off between the BJP and the J&K Omar Abdullah government over the former`s insistence on unfurling the national flag at Lal Chowk saw BJP leaders - Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar - being physically stopped from leaving Jammu airport. After pleas to make them return to Delhi failed, in a drama that lasted six hours, they were arrested and taken in a convoy to Madhopur in Punjab where they were freed.

The three had landed in Jammu airport in the afternoon to join the party’s youth wing, BJYM’s Ekta Yatra. The Omar Abdullah government has disallowed the yatra as it could vitiate the atmosphere in the state that saw massive street protests and over 100 deaths in summer of 2010.

Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar sat on the tarmac and ignored pleas by the Chief Minister to return to Delhi to prevent tension escalating.

They were arrested late in the evening and taken in a convoy to Madhopur Bridge in Punjab, near Lakhanpur Barrier, on the border with Jammu and Kashmir. They reached at around 10.50 pm. Madhopur is 15 km from Pathankot. The three were formally released by the Jammu and Kashmir Police at the border, district authorities said.

A party source said the three leaders will today proceed to Lakhanpur to join the rallyists entering Jammu and Kashmir.

Home Minister P Chidambaram meanwhile today appealed to BJP leaders not to push the confrontationist agenda.

"I… request Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and their colleagues to give up the path of confrontation, return to Delhi and join the celebration in Delhi on Republic Day," Chidambaram said.

He added that there is no justification whatsoever to push a political agenda that will certainly affect peace and law and order in Jammu and Kashmir.

Chidambaram had yesterday also told the BJP leaders when they were in Jammu to return.

The Home Minister told the BJP leaders that they made their point and should come back now, a Home Ministry official said.

Jaitley, speaking to reporters in Madhopur yesterday, said they were "illegally deported" from Jammu.

From their protest area in the airport, Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, tweeted that she and her colleagues would not budge and took on the government for stopping them from entering Jammu, a known BJP bastion.

"The government has the right to arrest us but they cannot deport us," she said.

Officials then took away the mobile telephones of all three leaders. An official added that the three leaders had been allowed to use facilities inside the terminal building.

A huge contingent of Jammu and Kashmir Police is stationed at Lakhanpur, 90 km from Jammu, to prevent the marchers from entering the state.

BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, who is visiting China, termed the Omar Abdullah government`s move to prevent the rally as "undemocratic" and "infringement of their fundamental rights".

Gadkari had flagged off the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha`s Ekta Yatra from Kolkata on January 12.

In New Delhi, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Central and state governments of trying to provoke his party but said the strategy would not succeed.

He charged the Jammu and Kashmir authorities with "repression".

(With IANS inputs)