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Jaitley takes a ‘populism’ jab

Prashant Bhushan
Arvind Kejriwal
Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, Jan. 6: The BJP critiqued the Aam Aadmi Party and stressed that issues of national security cannot be decided by “populism or (holding) referendums” but has to be clinched solely by “security considerations”.

Contextualising his critique in AAP leader Prashant Bhushan’s suggestion that if the people of Jammu and Kashmir did not want military deployment, the army should be withdrawn, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: “The defence of India is a subject exclusively in the central government’s domain.

“It is neither a state subject nor a subject to be handled at the municipal level. Maintenance of India’s sovereignty is a prime responsibility of the central government. The prime concern of the Indian state is to protect its own sovereignty and integrity.”

Jaitley said it was Pakistan that proposed the Valley’s de-militarisation, after which separatist outfits echoed the demand. “It is regrettable that a party like the AAP, which nourishes national ambitions, should adopt a position hostile to India’s interests.

“The issues of national security cannot be decided by populism or referendum. They can only be decided on security considerations. Till such time the infrastructure of terror remains, the presence of the army in J&K is essential,” he emphasised.

On earlier occasions, Bhushan had advocated plebiscite in the Valley to determine if the people wanted separation from India. To this, Jaitley’s response was: “Today, the issue of plebiscite is no longer a part of either the international agenda, a UN process or even the Indo-Pak bilateral ties.”

Although Arvind Kejriwal subsequently distanced his party from the comments, Jaitley wondered if India’s fledgling but most-talked-of party had ideological understanding and coherence.

In a long statement, Jaitley observed that political parties that “emerge as a transient reaction to a given situation” could be “non-ideological”. “They evolve their ideology as they grow. This can lead to both speculative and serious concerns,” he said.

He said that so far the AAP’s ideological position on various issues was unknown and it had displayed “symbolism rather than substance”. The “only indications” to emerge after the Assembly elections were that the AAP stood for “nationalisation of airports and natural resources”, a “soft and weak position on security issues” and “high subsidies which will lead to higher taxation”.

He hoped “sensible elements” in the AAP would “seek to reverse this position”, failing which the “slope downwards will be faster than the movement upwards”.