High drama, Swaraj, Jaitley stopped at airport, sit on dharna

Written by: Pti
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Jammu/New Delhi, Jan 24 (PTI) On a day of high drama,senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and AnanthKumar were today stopped at Jammu airport ahead of the party''smarch to Srinagar to hoist the tricolour on Republic Day andlater taken out of the state to Punjab by road.

The three leaders, who flew in here on a charteredplane, were not allowed to leave the airport for over fivehours and they staged a dharna on the tarmac in protest.

Later in the evening, they were driven to Madhopur inPunjab. Swaraj, in a late night tweet, said the securitypersonnel had told them that they were "under arrest" but thestate government denied it.

Jammu District Magistrate entered the aircraft and toldthe BJP leaders that they cannot enter the city to addresstomorrow a rally in the city, one of the stops on the party''scontroversial Ekta Yatra which is slated to culminate onRepublic Day with the party hoisting the national flag at LalChowk in Srinagar.

Refusing to fly back to Delhi, the BJP trio sat on adharna on the tarmac after they were allowed to deplane.

As word spread about their detention, hundreds of BJPsupporters outside the airport raised slogans against the OmarAbdullah government. Over 50 BJP activists were taken intocustody for violating prohibitory orders.

"It is a draconian situation here. They have createdan almost Emergency-like situation. We will not accept thisorder as we are free citizens of India and entitled to land inJammu," Kumar said.

About two hours after landing in Jammu, the threeleaders were taken to the airport lounge.

As BJP made it clear that it is in no mood to back offfrom its decision to hoist the tricolour at Lal Chowk onWednesday, Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Jaitley andChief Minister Omar Abdullah in an attempt to defuse thesituation.

Chidambaram said he had asked for the BJP leaders to begiven access to the airport lounge. He asked Jaitley torespect the wishes of the Chief Minister and return to Delhi.

Omar told the Home Minister that the leaders would notbe allowed to the attend the public rally in Jammu.

As requested by Chidambaram, Omar agreed to send stateChief Secretary S S Kapoor and DGP Kuldip Khoda to talk toJaitley and Swaraj and persuade them to abandon their plan.

Both the Centre and the Omar government have asked theBJP not to precipitate the situation in the state. On itspart, BJP charged them with "surrendering" to separatists whohave vowed not to allow the tricolour to be hoisted on Janaury26 at Lal Chowk.

BJP''s key ally JD(U) today pressed the saffron party todrop its flag hoisting plan in Srinagar given the kind of''tension'' prevailing in the Valley.

"Given the kind of tension that is prevailing in theValley, this ''yatra'' has no meaning and I don''t support this",Bihar Chief Minister and top JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar said inPatna when asked about his views on BJP''s plan..

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