Coming under attack from the Congress and the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday distanced itself from the remarks of party leader Prashant Bhushan that a referendum should be carried out in Kashmir before deployment of Army to deal with internal security threats in the valley.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal came to the rescue of the party by describing Bhushan’s comments as his personal view and added that there was “no question of a referendum” on the issue. “Deployment of the army within the country should be decided on basis of internal security threat,” Kejriwal said.
In a statement on Monday, Bhushan said he believed Kashmir is an integral part of India and added, “Any reference to referendum should not be misconstrued to mean plebiscite on Kashmir’s relationship with India.” In 2011, Bhushan supported a plebiscite in Kashmir and told a TV channel that a referendum should be carried out in Kashmir to decide on deployment of the Army in the valley.
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This is the second time in the past month that the party has had to distance itself from Bhushan’s remarks.
Earlier, the party had termed Bhushan raising the possibility of tie-up with BJP to form government in Delhi as his personal opinion.
Jumping on the opportunity to take a dig at the debutant party, the BJP hit out at AAP for its “weak” stand on national security and said such issues cannot be decided on populism or referendum. BJP senior leader Arun Jaitley said, “Till such time the infrastructure of terror remains, the presence of the army in J&K is essential”.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that reduction of security forces and phased revocation of Armed Forces Special Protection Act does not require a referendum, just a courageous statesman to decide. “Governments get a mandate to govern and decide, they don’t need a referendum before every tricky decision,” he said in the tweet.
Union health minister and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Gulam Nabi Azad advised AAP not to comment on issues “not well versed with” and said it creates more confusion than solution.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said AAP should wake up to the reality that they are a political party and no longer an NGO or commentators. “We are dealing with a very sensitive issue and everyone agrees that the presence of army has been critical in controlling terrorism. I advise AAP that they should realise that they cannot be irresponsible,” Jha said.
There are about 4-5 lakh army personnel deployed in the valley of which 50,000 are deployed for counter-insurgency operations. The rest are deployed along the LoC. The strength of the state police is 70,000.
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