Shimla/New Delhi: In a snub to his own party’s government in Himachal Pradesh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national vice president Shanta Kumar Wednesday said “national security is more important than a cricket ground”, alluding to the alleged government move to dispossess the army of the Annadale ground in Shimla.
He asked party leaders to refrain from making statements against the armed forces, in the backdrop of reports that the state government wanted to build a cricket stadium at the ground.
In a statement issued in Delhi, Shanta Kumar said “as the issue was now with the prime minister and the army chief, all the leaders should refrain from making any statements”.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal Monday took up his government’s objection to the army’s possession of Annadale ground with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even as Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh said he would speak to the chief minister to resolve the issue.
“It should be kept in mind that security of the nation is important and significant as compared to the cricket ground. For taking the decision, the priority should be given to the security of the nation,” Shanta Kumar said.
He urged the leaders not to indulge in “uncalled for” statements concerning the Indian military on handing over of Annadale ground to the state government. “This could further harm the morale of the forces,” he added.
The former chief minister said a small patch of ground in a tiny state like Himachal Pradesh has now been made a controversial issue.
“No military official should have released any statement against the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh and if at all there had been mistake from their side, the statements issued by leaders in retaliation were also unfortunate,” he said.
The controversy is linked to the prime chunk of 121-bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) Annadale ground, surrounded by thick forests and situated 4.5 km from Shimla’s ridge, which has been under the Army’s control since World War II.
The Himachal Cricket Association, which is headed by Dhumal’s son and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur, has begun a campaign to have it restored to the state for constructing a multipurpose stadium.
Dhumal Sunday threatened to file a defamation suit if the army did not apologise for alleging that the government wanted to grab the ground.