A battery of BJP leaders, including Union and state ministers and legislators, had to face the ire of hundreds of people who had assembled at Basi Tikari village in Meerut district for the funeral of Army Sepoy Ajay Kumar, who was killed in an encounter in Pulwama early on Monday.
Most of the leaders were asked by the crowd to remove their shoes and sandals as they tried to reach the funeral pyre of the jawan at Chaudhary Charan Singh College in Patla village. Some youths raising anti-government slogans hurled their footwear at the leaders, but nobody was hit. BJP leaders and ministers rushed to their cars barefoot.
“Why did you come to the village now when there are still two to three months left for the general elections?” someone in the crowd asked. “Why didn’t Nitin Gadkari come when he can spare time to dedicate various projects in a programme in Meerut on Wednesday?” asked another in the presence of BJP leaders.
Union minister Satya Pal Singh was the first to reach the village at around 8.20 am on Tuesday, and received a memorandum of demands by villagers, who said that a link road to the village must be named after the slain jawan and a memorial installed. However, Singh remained non-committal.
BJP MLC Sarojini Agarwal was surrounded by women, including Ajay Kumar’s mother Kamlesh. “My son has died because of the heightened morale of terrorists and stone-pelters because of the lack of a strong political will in Kashmir,” she told Agarwal.
Rashtriya Lok Dal vice president Jayant Chaudhary remained in the village for a long time and tried to assuage the slogan-shouting crowd but in vain.
“This incident (hurling of shoes) is an outcome of the politics of hatred. This was a political conspiracy hatched by opposition party leaders and their followers present at the cremation ground…” said Vineet Sharda, the state chief of the BJP’s trader cell.