Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi on Friday. (Express Photo Anil Sharma)
With less than a year left for general elections, the BJP Friday said the Opposition Congress is “playing a dangerous game… of communal politics” and will be “solely responsible if any disharmony plays out between now and the 2019 elections”.
Attacking Congress president Rahul Gandhi over an alleged remark attributed to him during an interaction Wednesday with Muslim intellectuals, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — she told reporters she was speaking in her capacity as a party leader — said Gandhi should “clear what transpired” at the meeting.
Quoting a report from the Inquilab, Sitharaman alleged Gandhi told Muslim intellectuals that “Congress is a Muslim party”.
She also took a swipe at him while responding to a query on an earlier remark by the Congress that Gandhi was a janeu-dhari (one who wears the sacred thread): “You can’t be janeu-dhari at one point and Muslim-dhari at another… This is playing with the people’s trust.”
“Congress party is playing a dangerous game, playing communal division, playing up the card of religion. It is frightening that it may lead to the kind of division and kind of communal disharmony that prevailed during the 1947 partition. Congress party shall be solely responsible if any disharmony plays out between now and the 2019 elections,” she said.
“We think Congress is getting back at this Divide India mindset. It is clear that 2019 election, they want to contest it at dharm ki aadhaar par (on the basis of religion). Its foundation has been laid,” she said.
Meanwhile, historian Syed Irfan Habib, who was among the Muslim intellectuals who met Gandhi Wednesday, denied that the Congress leader made any such remark.
“There was nothing like that. There was no issue of this nature raised, neither by the people present over there nor Rahul Gandhi himself. Nobody raised any such thing. It is just a figment of imagination of all those who want to give it a twist because they are doing it for their own political advantage. There is nothing at all. There is no basis at all,” Habib told The Indian Express.
The Congress hit back at the BJP, saying Sitharaman’s remarks are aimed at creating tension in the society. “Sitharaman is a responsible Defence Minister and her statement today is clearly in line with Prime Minister Modi’s agenda of polarising this country,” Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev told reporters.
“While we are days away from the monsoon session of Parliament where the government has absolutely no answers about the complete mess they have made in J&K, no answers on price rise, fuel price hikes and agrarian distress, it is expected of the Defence Minister to take up issues unnecessarily to create a controversy and move away from the real issues,” Dev said.