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Shinde says sorry on budget session-eve
‘Terror statement misunderstood’

New Delhi, Feb. 20: Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde expressed regret over his reference to “Hindu terror” after the Congress deliberated for long on the choice of words and decided to remove as many hurdles as possible for the smooth running of the budget session beginning tomorrow.

In a brief statement, Shinde, who is also the leader of the Lok Sabha, said his comment has created a “misunderstanding” and he had no intention to link terrorism with any religion.

“Since controversy has been created on account of my statement, I am issuing this clarification and expressing regret to those who felt hurt by my statement,” the home minister said.

“My statement given in Jaipur last month has created a misunderstanding. It has been understood to mean that I was linking terrorism to a particular religion and was accusing certain political organisations of being involved in organising terror camps.

“I had no intention to link terror to any religion. There is no basis for suggesting that terror can be linked to organisations mentioned in my brief speech in Jaipur,” he added.

“I will continue to perform my duties to the best of my ability to ensure that harmony is maintained in the social fabric of India,” Shinde said.

Shortly after Shinde expressed regret, the BJP welcomed the gesture but said it ought to have come much earlier. “The delay had created a condition which gladdened the hearts of terrorists and their patrons in Pakistan,” BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Shinde had made the controversial remark at Jaipur a month ago at the Congress’s Chinthan Shivir, raising the hackles of the principal Opposition party and the Sangh parivar.

Earlier in the day, Shinde, along with parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath, had a meeting with Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.

The home minister has been under severe attack from the BJP, which had threatened to raise the issue in the budget session.

The Congress core group met this morning to discuss the Parliament session beginning tomorrow and decided to remove the first obstacle to smooth proceedings.

Although the text of Shinde’s statement remained a point of dispute throughout the day as the BJP insisted on a clear expression of regret, the Congress leadership was determined to resolve the issue.

After several rounds of negotiations, an understanding was reached with the BJP. Sonia Gandhi cleared the text approved by the BJP, significantly enhancing the chances of a normal start to the budget session.

The main Opposition will certainly view this as a victory of sorts as Shinde had clearly stated in Jaipur that the RSS and the BJP were running camps where training for bomb-making was taking place. Shinde has now diluted his assertion, almost withdrawing the serious charge against the BJP.

“We accept this regret from the home minister but this ought to have come much earlier. Shinde’s comment against the RSS and the BJP was totally unwarranted, baseless and malicious. If Mr Shinde knew that what has spoken was incorrect, he ought to have accepted his mistake earlier graciously,” Prasad told PTI.

BJP sources said the party would not raise this issue in Parliament and the matter is closed after Shinde’s regret.

“We hope and trust that Shinde will be cautious in his comments about nationalistic organisation like the BJP and the RSS in the future and not repeat this again,” Prasad said.