| Rahul Gandhi campaigns in Tilhar in Uttar Pradesh. (PTI)
New Delhi/Islamabad, April 15: Rahul Gandhi has talked up a storm that swept across the heartland, crossed the borders and turned 35 years of official history on its head.
At an election rally in Uttar Pradesh last night, the young MP seemed to casually dismiss Delhi’s persistent claim that Pakistan triggered the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
“You know, when our family commits to a task, it also completes it,” he said in Bareilly, to impress on voters that his family kept its word.
“In the past too, members of the Gandhi family have achieved the goals they have initiated — like the freedom of the country, dividing Pakistan into two and leading the nation to the 21st century.”
India’s support to Mujibur Rahman and the Mukti Bahini is an open secret, but Delhi has never claimed that it actively “divided” Pakistan to create Bangladesh.
Delhi’s official version is that Pakistan launched air strikes on Indian Air Force stations in the western sector on December 3, 1971. It was only then that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared in a broadcast to the nation that India was at war with Pakistan.
Rahul’s comment drew sharp responses from both allies and rivals, while Pakistan also took note. Islamabad said it proves what it has been saying: that India “interfered” in its internal affairs and tried to “destabilise” it. “This is a clear admission of it,” foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said the comment was “atrocious” and reflected a mindset that does not recognise even the role of the Congress party.
“Crediting his family with India’s freedom struggle is a direct insult to revolutionaries and freedom fighters. And if he thinks the Gandhi family is responsible for partitioning Pakistan, he would have to take the blame for partitioning of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947 as well.”
D. Raja, national secretary of the CPI, a central ally of the Congress, said Rahul should concentrate on what his party can do for Uttar Pradesh. “The contribution of the Congress in the past is not enough.”
Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh said Rahul was “trying hard to find a niche for himself”.
The Congress defended Rahul, saying the statement should be viewed “holistically and not out of context”.
“Bangladesh was formed only after the division of Pakistan. Even (then Opposition leader) Atal Bihari Vajpayee had praised Indira Gandhi at the time and had called her Durga. It is a truth from history and that is what Rahul has repeated,” said spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi.
In Bareilly, Rahul also offered a chadar at the shrine of Sufi saint Ala Hazrat where former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was not allowed to offer one shortly after the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992.
Congress sources said the decision of the dargah authorities to allow Rahul to pray at the shrine reflected the party’s “increasing acceptability” among Muslims.
They claimed that the faith of Muslims had increased after Rahul’s recent comment that the mosque would have survived had a member of the Gandhi-Nehru family been at the helm in 1992.