BJP leaders stopped at Jammu airport, stage dharna

India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists shout slogans after their national leaders were stopped at the airport in Jammu, January 24. (AP Photo)
Jammu, January 24 (Agencies): Amid high drama, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar were stopped at Jammu airport today and not allowed to enter the city to participate in a massive rally planned in Jammu tomorrow, triggering vehement protests. The three leaders, who arrived here to throw their weight behind the party’s controversial Ekta Yatra, were asked to return to Delhi which they refused as hundreds of BJP workers outside the airport shouted slogans and waved flags.
The BJP is in no mood to back off from its decision to hoist the tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day at the end of the Ekta Yatra. Both the Centre and the Omar Abdullah government have asked the BJP not to precipitate the situation in the state. Rejecting it, BJP charged them with “surrendering” to separatists who have vowed not to allow the tricolour to be hoisted on Janaury 26 at Lal Chowk. The leaders, who came on a chartered flight from New Delhi this afternoon, were not allowed to move out as the authorities imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPc after over 1000 BJP workers assembled outside the airport to welcome them.
Protesting against the state government’s actions, the BJP leaders sat on a dharna inside the airport while outside, party activists raised slogans against Omar Abdullah government and blocked the road next to the building. Swaraj said the terminal gates were locked. Slamming the state government, Kumar claimed that as soon as they landed the district magistrate asked them to go back but they refused. “It is a draconian situation here. They have almost formed an Emergency-like situation. We will not accept this order as we are free citizens of India and entitled to land in Jammu,” Kumar said, adding the three of them were sitting on a dharna on the tarmac.
In Delhi, BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said, “This is a repressive action by the government of India. we condemn it. We will go ahead with the yatra”. Targeting the Centre, he said “this decision could not have been that of the J&K Chief Minister alone. It has to be at the behest of the Centre”. The BJP leaders were dispatched by the party a day after several workers of BJP’s youth wing (BJYM) were prevented from entering Jammu & Kashmir. “This is an outrageous act by the Omar Abdullah government which has detained our leaders at the airport. This is a picture akin to the Emergency days,” state BJP spokesman Jitender Singh told reporters here. “They (authorities) are furthering the agenda of the separatists and undermining the nationalist element,” he said.
Nitish, Sharad ask BJP to drop flag hoisting plan
New Delhi, January 24 (PTI): The Bharatiya Janata Party’s key ally the Janata Dal (United) on Monday pressed the saffron party to drop its flag hoisting plan in Srinagar on Republic Day given the kind of “tension” prevailing in the Valley and asserted that issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir were “sensitive”. Bihar Chief Minister and top JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar said he did not support the Rashtriya Ekta Yatra to Kashmir Valley that is to culminate in the flag hoisting plan at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Wednesday.
“Given the kind of tension that is prevailing in the Valley, this yatra has no meaning and I don’t support this”, Kumar said when asked about his views on the BJP’s plan. “Though it is an internal matter of the BJP, I am opposed to the plan. My party president has also been speaking about it,” Mr. Kumar told reporters in Patna. In New Delhi, JD (U) president Sharad Yadav renewed his appeal to the BJP not to go ahead with the flag hoisting plan.
“Earlier also I had given the suggestion... I again appeal to them (not to go ahead with the plan),” he told reporters in New Delhi when asked about his party’s views on the BJP programme. Yadav, who is also the convenor of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, pointed out that issues relating to Jammu & Kashmir are “sensitive” and this should be kept in mind. Yadav while referring to the period of unrest witnessed in the Valley last summer said peace has been restored there by the people themselves and not by any government.
He had earlier also objected to hoisting the national flag at Lal Chowk immediately after the BJP had announced the plan. Yadav had appealed to the BJP to postpone its flag hoisting programme for the time being since this would be in the interest of both the country and J&K. “Right now, there is peace in the Valley which has arrived due to the diligent efforts of people there and steps should be taken at this time to strengthen that peace instead of doing anything which hampers it,” Yadav had said. Replying to questions on what, he as NDA convenor, had to say on the need for the programme, Yadav had categorically said, “this is not NDA’s programme. It is BJP’s programme.”
Chidambaram speaks to Jaitley, Omar to defuse tension

New Delhi, January 24 (PTI):
In a bid to defuse tension, Home Minister P Chidambaram today spoke to BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah after J-K authorities stopped BJP leaders at Jammu airport ahead of a planned hoisting of tricolour in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Republic Day.
Chidambaram called Omar and took stock of the situation arising out of the arrival of Jaitley and party colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar at the Jammu airport and the decision of local authorities not to allow them to enter the city, sources said. The Chief Minister told the Home Minister that the two top BJP leaders would not be allowed to attend a public rally in Jammu as part of the BJP’s controversial ‘Ekta Yatra’.
Following Chidambaram’s request, Omar agreed to send state Chief Secretary S S Kapoor and DGP Kuldip Khoda to talk to Jaitley and Swaraj and persuade them to abandon their plan. In his conversation with Jaitley, Chidambaram requested him to respect the wishes of the Chief Minister and return to Delhi to defuse tension in the state, they said. Efforts are also being made to allow Jaitley and Swaraj to speak to a small group of people and a few journalists before their return to the national capital, the sources said.

BJP seeks prez’s intervention

New Delhi, January 24 (PTI):
With its senior leaders denied entry into Kashmir Valley for the flag hoisting programme in Srinagar on the Republic day, BJP has sought President Pratibha Patil’s intervention in the matter. “We have urged the president to intervene in the matter as two of our senior leaders are being stopped at Jammu,” senior leader Rajnath Singh said after his phone call to the President. “I requested her (Patil) to tell the Centre to permit the youth wing to hoist the tricolour,” he added. BJP moved the president after its senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were stopped at the Jammu airport. They were sent by the BJP high command earlier in the day to “take command” of the BJP youth wing’s flag hoisting yatra at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.