The BJP on Thursday asserted there was "no difference" with PDP, its ally in Jammu and Kashmir, over granting passport to Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and said a decision on the matter would be taken by the Centre in accordance with the law.
"The decision to issue passport to him (Geelani) will be taken (by the Centre)... keeping in view all security aspects of it," BJP state
president and Jammu MP Jugal Kishore Sharma told reporters in Jammu.
The allies on Wednesday appeared to be on diametrically opposite side with the Peoples Democratic Party strongly advocating for a passport to Geelani and the Bharatiya Janata Party demanding an apology from him for his "anti-national activities" before the hardline separatist is issued the travel documents.
Sharma denied there is any difference of opinion over the issuance of a passport to Geelani, who wants to visit his ailing daughter in Saudi Arabia.
"We are on the same page on the issue," insisted Sharma.
The PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday had said Geelani should be given a passport on humanitarian grounds.
"I believe that no government can, on humanitarian grounds, deny a father the right to meet his daughter," said Mufti.
The BJP, on the other hand, had asked Geelani to "fall in line" and acknowledge that he is an Indian if he wants an Indian passport.
"Passport cannot be given to Geelani till he apologises for the mistakes he has committed during the past 25 years. Passports are issued to Indian citizens and not the ones who don't believe in India and its democracy. If Geelani sahib wants the passport, then he has to fall in the line and follow the law of the land," BJP spokesperson Khalid Jehangir had said.
Sharma also said the BJP has not softened its stand on anti-national activities and people found indulging in anti-national activities would be dealt with strictly.
The BJP also claims that its coalition partner PDP too is not soft on separatists and is taking tough steps against anti-national forces.
"Masarat Alam was jailed for waving Pakistani flags. The decision was taken by the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed," said
Geelani has been denied passport in the past but was granted one for a year in 2011.
The Union home ministry said that Geelani's request for a passport will be processed on "merit" depending on completion of "formalities" by him.
"Passport is the right of every Indian citizen and is issued by the ministry of external affairs after following due process. In case any applicant applies for the passport, he should fulfill all the formalities before his case is processed. As and when the matter is referred to the ministry of home affairs, we will process the case on merit," said a home ministry spokesperson.
PTI quoted unnamed sources as saying that Geelani and his family members want to travel to Jeddah and have applied for passports online.
But he has not yet visited the regional passport office in Srinagar to give his biometric data and clicking a photograph. As per the new rules, an applicant must visit the passport office in person to give biometric details and click the photograph.
Once Geelani visits the passport office to complete the formalities, his application will be sent to the MEA and the MHA for their comments as he falls in 'prior security clearance' category for issuing of a passport, the news agency cited a source as saying.
The ministries, then, in consultation with the Jammu and Kashmir government, would take a final decision on granting the passport to him.
Reacting to the statement of Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Haseeb Drabu that goods and services tax (GST) would not be
implemented in the state, Sharma said there might be some misunderstanding and the issue would be discussed between the state and the Centre.
On the issue of shifting of AIIMS from Jammu to Kashmir, he said that his party welcomes setting up of AIIMS in Kashmir but said that a similar institution should also be established in Jammu region.
"We welcome setting up of AIIMS in Kashmir, but we want to assure you that Jammu too would get an AIIMS and the people who are
doing politics should not play with the sentiments of the people," Sharma said.
Sharma said the artificial lake project on the Tawi river in Jammu has not be shelved and that it would be completed.
"Fund were misused by the previous governments and we will hold an inquiry into it... How the design was changed? We want to assure the people of Jammu that the project will be completed," he said.
Sharma said the central government has increased the monthly salary of more than 25,000 special police officers (SPOs) in Jammu and Kashmir.
"This was a long pending demand of the SPOs and now the central government has doubled their salary from Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000," he said.
(With PTI inputs)