Two days after ministers and legislators of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were forced to walk barefoot at the cremation of 55 Rashtriya Rifles sepoy Ajay Kumar at his native Basa Tikari village on Februrary 19, the party leaders accused the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) for the trouble.
Jitendra Satwai, BJP legislator from Siwal Khas in Meerut, issued a press statement blaming the RLD workers for creating trouble for BJP leaders at the cremation ground, while Union Minister Satya Pal Singh who was the first among the leaders to reach the village blamed “some elements” for the incident on Twitter. “The top leadership of the BJP was present at the cremation but some elements levelled baseless allegations on the party… It is the time to stand with the bereaved family, not to play politics,” tweeted Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State for Human Resource Development.
At the cremation ground on Februrary 19, a majority of the BJP leaders were asked by the crowd to remove their shoes and sandals to go near the pyre of the slain sepoy at Chaudhary Charan Singh College ground in Patla village. The leaders were “directed” to sit barefoot with others and later some of the youths, raising anti-government slogans hurled their footwear towards them, though none hit them. Sensing trouble, the BJP leaders walked barefoot to their cars.
“Why did you come to the village now? Because just two-three months are left for general elections…?,” these were some of the questions that people in the crowd asked the leaders. RLD vice-president, Jayant Chaudhary, tried to assuage the crowd but to no avail.
Satwai said in a statement, “A number of BJP office-bearers and people’s representatives (MPs and MLAs) were present during the cremation where some anti-social elements (who were from the RLD) misbehaved with them… This is highly shocking. I want to make it clear that my son, Navneet, is a major in the Indian Army and I can very well understand the mental state of a soldier’s family. I strongly condemn the indecent behaviour meted out to party leaders at the cremation ground,” he said.
Reacting to the comments from the BJP leaders, RLD state spokesman Sunil Rohta said that whatever has happened at the cremation ground was a manifestation of the simmering wrath and feelings of the crowd against the BJP leadership.
“The RLD has no role in instigating people to indulge in such an incident.The RLD leaders, including our vice-president, were sitting with people at a distance from the pyre when this incident happened. The BJP leaders are levelling baseless allegations on the RLD out of sheer frustration as thousands who were present at the cremation ground were raising their voice against the BJP leadership,” Rohta told The Indian Express.