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BJP snarls at ally’s ‘same coin’ jab

New Delhi, Jan. 7: Janata Dal (United) MP Shivanand Tiwari today said RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi were “two sides of the same coin”, angering ally BJP which termed the remarks “unwarranted, baseless and undignified”.

“There is no difference between them (Bhagwat and Owaisi). They are two sides of the same coin… both create hatred in society to boost their vote banks,” Tiwari said when asked about Bhagwat’s recent controversial views that marriage is a “social contract” under which the wife is supposed to take care of the household.

Owaisi, a Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA, has been summoned to Andhra Pradesh High Court over an alleged hate speech last month against a particular community.

The BJP’s rebuttal came within hours from principal spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, who asked Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav to restrain Tiwari.

“I not only refute, but strongly condemn his completely unwarranted comments. He has compared Mohan Bhagwatji with the MIM MLA Owaisi. What does he mean by this? He has made very uncharitable comments about the RSS… I would appeal to Sharad Yadavji to kindly restrain these highly unwarranted and condemnable utterances of Shivanand Tiwari.”

Earlier, Bhagwat had remarked that rapes happen in “India” and not in “Bharat”. The BJP had defended Bhagwat on both occasions.

BJP leader Uma Bharti said a “person who makes such a statement about the RSS chief has lost his mental balance”.

Dal (United) boss Sharad Yadav described Bhagwat’s remarks on women as “shallow” but added he was yet to go through the RSS leader’s remarks “properly” and would react after going through the written statement.

Tiwari has in the past taken independent stands, particularly on the Dal (United)-BJP ties, that have not been vetted by his party’s official line and led to a row with the ally. The partners make up the ruling Bihar coalition led by Nitish Kumar of the Dal (United).

Officially, Tiwari has rarely been restrained or censured, leading to the impression that he has the tacit approval of Dal (United) leadership. But this time, many BJP leaders feel Tiwari exceeded his limit by casting aspersions on the RSS chief.

Prasad underlined that in his rebuttal today. “I need to inform him (Tiwari) as a swayamsevak myself that in the RSS ideology and working, women are given pride of place.”

Tiwari’s comments come at a time of lingering doubts over the continuance of the Dal (United) in the NDA after the rise of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the BJP. The Dal (United) has indicated it will part ways with the BJP if Modi is projected as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.

Against such a backdrop, there were some in the BJP who chose not push matters further, playing down Tiwari’s utterances by insisting he could be only airing his “personal views”.

“If Nitish Kumar or Sharad Yadav made such statements, we need to view it seriously. Tiwari is known for courting controversy,” said a senior BJP leader.