New Delhi, Oct. 25: The Congress is firmly behind Rahul Gandhi over his recent claim about Pakistani intelligence agency ISI tapping some young men among the Muzaffarnagar riot victims — a statement that has triggered protests from many political parties.
Congress sources have been praising Rahul for showing the courage to publicly say that communalism was feeding terrorism — a line the party hopes will generate a debate on Narendra Modi’s politics.
The Congress believes this argument will force other “secular” parties to take positions, whittling the BJP’s coalition options.
The party, which had backed down when Modi exploited Sonia Gandhi’s “merchants of death” remark in Gujarat before the 2007 state polls, is convinced that Rahul’s gamble could play out differently in other states ahead of the general election.
While some Congress leaders fear this line could feed the Sangh parivar’s attempts to polarise voters on communal lines, key party strategists argue that fighting the BJP on communalism would be the party’s best bet in 2014.
This sentiment was reflected in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s unusually strong remark yesterday that “all sane persons should be worried about the politics of hatred that is sweeping the country”.
Congress leaders say Singh’s comments should be seen in the context of Modi’s projection. They say people should be told what Modi stands for at a time his spin doctors are feeding a carefully crafted electoral discourse to a national audience.
“You need to understand what Rahul is saying. The communal frenzy is being created by the same ideology that was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi,” said Digvijaya Singh, Congress general secretary and member of the party’s election management committee.
“There are two kinds of forces injecting violence into our society: one that uses religious sentiments for political gains, and the Left-wing Maoists. The Congress is fighting both.”
Congress spokespersons cite how the fact of three BJP MLAs being behind bars over the Muzaffarnagar riots is often ignored while assessing the BJP’s claims on developmental politics.
They say that denouncing Rahul’s charge that “the BJP foments trouble (aag laga dete hain)” is pointless since several BJP leaders, including ministers, have been convicted or accused of rioting, corruption and other criminal activities in Gujarat.
“We have noticed a clear ploy to spread hatred and generate conflicts in the country, particularly Uttar Pradesh, by the BJP and the RSS,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
“The VHP’s yatras and the Muzaffarnagar riots are examples. The fake CD that fomented trouble was uploaded by BJP MLA Sangeet Som and distributed by RSS cadre. It was the duty of Rahul Gandhi as a responsible politician to forewarn people not to fall prey to the designs of the communal forces.”
Rahul had claimed he had learnt of the ISI’s activities among Muzaffarnagar victims from an intelligence official, triggering questions why an “Intelligence Bureau” officer would brief someone who is not in the government.
Surjewala said: “Rahul didn’t say he was briefed by the IB. He is a two-term MP and the leader of the ruling party. Police and IB officers do come to public representatives and share information on issues that can affect civil society.”
He added: “I, as an Opposition leader in Haryana, had been briefed several times on certain issues. Rahul, as a responsible leader, forewarned people. The country needs to stay alert.”
Other party leaders argued that informal information-sharing with senior political leaders cannot be questioned. “Even the BJP brass is briefed by the national security adviser on important issues,” one leader said.
Responding to the charge that Rahul had cast suspicion on Indian Muslims’ patriotism, he said: “It is a known fact that extremists and terrorists take advantage of a turmoil. If your house catches fire, your enemies take advantage of it.”
He added: “Whenever there will be communal trouble or conflict, enemies will intervene. The RSS and the BJP may gain from such situations; India won’t.”
He defended Rahul’s public statement on this sensitive issue, saying: “Secularism is the fundamental issue; it is above politics.”