BJP washes its hands off Annandale ground row

In a complete turnaround on the raging controversy between the Army and the Himachal government over the Annandale ground, the state BJP unit on Thursday washed its hands off from the row, claiming that neither had the government formulated any plan for a multi-purpose sports stadium at the site nor had it ever backed a "signature campaign" for the ground.

The party also made it clear that Anurag Thakur, BJP MP and Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) president's stand on the issue was personal. "Many a time, a public representatives get associated with a movement just to honour sentiments of the citizens, but that can't be construed as party's official stand," said BJP national general secretary and spokesman J P Nadda. He was in town to participate in a meeting of party ministers and office-bearers. The meeting was attended by Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.

The party also claimed that Dhumal's reaction against the Army's "questionable" press release was the most desirable act, and he (Dhumal) had effectively and strongly raised the issue with the Prime Minister and the defence minister. "After this, the matter is finished from our side for now," said Shayam Jaju, party co-incharge for Himachal Pradesh.

Asserting that the BJP had always held the Army and the defence forces in highest regards, he added: "Some of the decisions taken by the previous NDA government had amply demonstrated the BJP's commitment to the country's security and strategic needs. So, there is no question of any conflict with the Army whatsoever."

Nadda also went on to accuse the Opposition of racking up a "non issue". "This is regrettable and shows negative thinking," he said.

"Dhumalji as the chief minister had been perusing the matter with the central government because it was in 1988 that the then defence minister K C Pant had written to the state government conveying that the Army does not need the ground. But the state government had to assure that it should allow the Army to use the ground at the time of emergencies and disasters. To this, the state government had no problems," Nadda said.

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