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Cong relishes Katju bite

New Delhi, Feb. 18: The Congress is delighted to see Justice Markandey Katju raise questions about Narendra Modi’s leadership, but has chosen to stay aloof even as the BJP blasted the Press Council of India chairperson for what it describes as his “political bias”.

While the irrepressible Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh has jumped into the battlefield, the party’s official line is to avoid getting involved as there was little gain in turning the Katju-versus-BJP battle into a routine political fight.

A senior Congress leader told The Telegraph: “Why dilute the effects of observations made by an independent authority by giving it a political colour?”

The party’s official response was staid: “We are not here to sit judgement on Justice Katju. We can’t reply on his behalf either.”

Spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury gave a glimpse of the party’s thinking through her witty one-liner in response to queries about Katju’s raging battle with Arun Jaitley.

“We admire Jaitley’s skills as a lawyer; kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishana,” she said, alluding to Jaitley’s attempt to humour Modi.

One Congress leader explained: “Katju has indeed been making strong statements with political overtones. But Jaitley reacted only when Modi came in the firing line. Katju made scathing remarks about Mamata Banerjee and an avoidable comment about 90 per cent Indians being fools but Jaitley ignored those....”

Asked why was the party hesitating in responding to Jaitley’s observations on dynasty and Katju being more Congress than Congress, this leader said: “Why should we make it a political battle? Katju is more than capable of defending himself. The Press Council is an independent quasi-judicial body and Katju has his own appeal. If he raises an issue against Modi, why should we vindicate the charge that he was echoing Congress sentiments?”

But Digvijaya has always spoken his mind irrespective of the party line and he said today: “I am very surprised to read the totally unnecessary and outlandish statement of Arun Jaitley against Justice Markandey Katju. In what capacity is he sitting in judgement on Katju’s performance as a judge and post-retirement as chairman, Press Council of India? Justice Katju is one of the very eminent judges of the Indian judiciary who has always called a spade a spade.”

The Congress general secretary said: “Katju has always been impartial. Is Jaitley reacting in this manner because he owes his Rajya Sabha seat to Mr Narendra Modi? I think Mr Arun Jaitley should not comment like this, it is unbecoming of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.”

He further said: “Why did Mr Jaitley keep quiet when Katju brought out the issues against the chief minister of Maharashtra, against the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, against the home ministry in the arrest of Iftikar Gilani? When he sort of publicly rebutted the police in the case of gang rape in Delhi? Jaitley kept quiet on those occasions.”