Leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar has asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to clarify its stand on "martyr" status for Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is on death row for the assassination of former chief minister Beant Singh.
"Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has changed the definition of martyr by declaring Rajoana as one, but conspicuously BJP, which claims to be a patriotic party, has remained silent on the issue," Jhakar said while addressing the function of Shaheed Parivar Fund organised by Hindi daily Punjab Kesari to disburse relief to terrorism-affected families.
Posing the query directly to former deputy prime minister LK Advani, who was sitting on stage, Jakhar said, "This is the opportunity for BJP to break its silence and clarify its stand on martyr status for Rajoana."
"SAD may have some compulsion to declare Rajoana a martyr, but the silence of the BJP has given reason to people to raise their eyebrows on such a sensitive issue," said Jakhar.
Advani spoke after Jakhar, but did not reply to his query, only saying: "This is not a political platform to rake up political issues."
However, he said political untouchability should not be practised in the political sphere.
"Social untouchability is unacceptable and is a crime, but in politics those who don't practice political untouchability are considered culprits," the BJP stalwart said. "This form of untouchability should also not be a part of our political system."
However, when the media sought clarification on his political untouchability statement, Advani, who had started his career as a journalist, refused to comment further.
Earlier, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said from the same stage that political parties should come together at least on a few issues to enact bills, which could help the country, especially to curb unemployment as this was the main reason for terrorism.
"At least one such bill to help people of the country should be passed after building consensus," said Soni.
Asked about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that India was not taking any decisions under pressure from the US in the wake of allowing foreign direct investment in retail, Advani said, "No comments."
On the spate of recent scams, BJP member of Parliament Navjot Singh Sidhu said economic terrorism was the biggest terrorism as it was keeping people poor and unemployed.
Others present at the function were former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar, Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, Punjab cabinet minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and Jalandhar mayor Sunil Jyoti.
Rahul's itinerary may be changed
Sunil Jakhar said venues on Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's itinerary may be changed from the earlier declared Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala. Rahul wanted to visit some new venues, as he has already visited these places, said Jakhar.