New Delhi, Nov. 26: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani reaffirmed today that the Centre was neither informed nor consulted before the Jammu and Kashmir government decided to release political prisoners shortly after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took over as chief minister.
As the blame game between the BJP and the Congress intensified, Advani told the BJP parliamentary party, which met this morning, that: “To say that the detenus were set free with the Centre’s knowledge and concurrence is baseless.”
In an attempt to set the Centre’s record straight before the issue became a talking point in the Gujarat elections, Advani said the Mufti government may have “informally” shared details of its decision with local intelligence agencies. It would be “improper” to even divulge this information inside the House and outside.
“But this cannot be treated as advice from the Centre,” Advani was quoted as saying by BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra.
The Congress, however, stuck to its stand that the detenus were released after getting the Centre’s go-ahead and accused Advani of “misleading the country with a mischievous intent”.
“Advani did not tell the whole truth either to Parliament or to the people when he said that the government had not given any clearance for the release of detenus in J&K. We would like to make it clear that senior officers, including the joint director of the Intelligence Bureau, K.B. Singh, were consulted,” Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said.
Reddy added that Sayeed had a meeting with Singh, who deals exclusively with Kashmir, on November 7.
“It does not lie in their (the BJP’s) mouth to object to the action of the J&K government as a BJP-led coalition had facilitated a meeting of some Hurriyat leader with Pervez Musharraf (the Pakistan President) in Delhi,” Reddy added.
Asked whether the Congress would move a privilege motion against Advani in the Lok Sabha, he said the party would first examine whether a case of breach of privilege could be made out.
Independent observers, however, believe that the home ministry could not have been kept entirely in the dark about such a significant move which was enshrined in the election manifesto of Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party. The well-entrenched intelligence network in the state keeps the home ministry in the know of even routine developments, they said.
The observation was corroborated by reliable BJP sources who admitted that the home ministry was informed of how the local intelligence had warned Sayeed that eight of the 10 prisoners initially shortlisted were not “fit cases”. “Their objections were obviously overruled for political gains,” said these sources.
But the BJP and the Sangh parivar indicated that they were not willing to pass up the chance to have a go at the Congress. Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary Praveen Togadia told PTI that the VHP’s slogan would be “Support the Congress and invite Raghunath”.
BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu charged the PDP-Congress coalition with “failure” to combat the surge in violence and Malhotra accused PDP vice-president Mehbooba Mufti of “sedition” for her alleged statement that India and Pakistan should keep off Kashmir.
These were indications that the Gujarat waters would be tested to see if the Raghunath attack would be as “potent” as Akshardham. Naidu is slated to kick off the campaign with Advani and the others on November 30.