Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addresses a day-long convention ‘Sajha Virasat Bachao Sammelan’ in New Delhi, Aug. 17. (Kamal Kishore/PTI)
The Congress and the BJP were engaged in a war of words, Aug. 17, over Rahul Gandhi’s remarks made at an opposition meet, with the BJP alleging it was “hypocrisy” to talk about “composite culture” while remaining silent over killings of RSS workers in Kerala.
Speaking at the ‘Sanjhi Virasat Bachao’ meeting, Congress vice president Gandhi had demanded a “Sach Bharat” or a true India instead of “Swachch Bharat” and attacked the BJP’s ideological mentor, the RSS, and accused it of trying to divide society on the lines of caste and religion.
Hitting back at Gandhi, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Congress vice president’s observations are more of a “political cry” arising out of a deep sense of dismay as to why he and his party are being rejected by the people of the country.
“I have a question on the talk of composite heritage (‘sanjhi virasat’) which is going on today. RSS workers in Kerala’s Kannur are being allegedly killed by CPI-M workers, which heritage is that?” Prasad asked.
“The organizers of composite heritage – Congress, Left and Sharad Yadav are sitting together, how do they consider the merciless killing of RSS workers in Kannur in Kerala by CPI-M workers and their goons? Is it part of the composite heritage of India? This is hypocrisy,” he said.
“Does Rahul Gandhi speak about it (Killings in Kerala?) Where are Delhi’s so called liberal intellectuals who were doing ‘Award Wapasi’? Today RSS workers are being killed by CPI-M goons, why are the liberal intellectuals silent now?” Prasad asked.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari again hit back and termed as “unfortunate and intemperate” the remarks of Prasad on Gandhi and said it did not behove a minister to make obtuse personal comments.
Taking exception to Prasad’s remarks against Gandhi, Tewari said the Union minister was not even aware of the facts about his party’s existence in 1980.
The Congress leader said Prasad’s remarks truly reflect the exquisite mixture of “ignorance and arrogance” with which this government has come to characterize itself within its 38 months of being in power.
He asked the minister whether it was not true that the previous NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee had formed a committee to suggest changes in the Constitution.
“Was that not an attempt to change the Constitution of India?” he asked.
Tewari said the highest positions in the government, such as the Prime Minister’s Office, and the country’s various institutions, are occupied by people who owe their allegiance to the RSS and its affiliated bodies.
“Ministers of the Union are serving on the board of a think tank belonging to the RSS while being ministers is a clear case of conflict of interest,” he said.
Referring to Prasad’s remarks on political violence in the country, especially in the context of Kerala, Tewari said the political killings have been condemned from this platform by the Congress repeatedly.
“While the law minister sees the violence of the CPI-M, he does not see the violence which is unleashed by his own party men and organizations which owe allegiance to it,” he said.
Tewari said all those people who have gathered for the ‘Sanjhi Virasat Bachao’ (save country’s composite heritage) are actually “poor runners” of the liberal idea of India, an idea which has been under stress, strain and sustained assault for the last 38 months.
“But the ideological battle against sectarianism, against fundamentalism and against the kind of obscurantism would continue, and ultimately we would triumph,” he said.
Congress vice president Gandhi had demanded a “Sach Bharat” or a true India instead of “Swachch Bharat.”
Gandhi also attacked the BJP’s ideological mentor, the RSS, and accused it of trying to divide society on the lines of caste and religion.
“Modi ji says he wants to create a ‘Swachch Bharat’ but we want a ‘Sach Bharat’…We don’t want your ‘fake Bharat’,” Gandhi said, and alleged, “Wherever he (Modi) goes he lies.”
Gandhi, however, did not elaborate further.
Alleging that the RSS knew its views would not help it win elections, he said it was trying to plant its people in every institution.
“Till the time RSS did not rule India, they never saluted the national flag…You can look at this nation in two ways.
One says this country is mine, other says I belong to the country. That’s the difference between RSS and us,” he said.