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Rajnath revises apology offer
- Sangh hand seen in amendment

New Delhi, Feb. 26: The BJP has amended its president Rajnath Singh’s offer of apology to Muslims, saying the Congress must do so to the nation.

The change in tone fuelled suggestions that the RSS was upset with Rajnath for sounding “over the top”.

Addressing a gathering of Muslims at a closed-door convention organised by the BJP’s minority wing and the RSS’s Rashtriya Muslim Manch in Delhi yesterday, Rajnath was quoted by PTI as saying: “Please note that whenever, wherever, if there has been any mistake and shortcomings on our part, I assure you that we will apologise to you by bowing our heads.”

The BJP chief did not mention any specific “mistake” the party might have committed.

But Rajnath talked about the 2002 Gujarat violence and the allegations against Narendra Modi, the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister. The BJP president maintained that the party was not against Muslims and the community should, therefore, not fall prey to “propaganda”.

“People claim that Muslims are afraid of Modi. But there are several Muslim representatives elected on the BJP symbol in Gujarat. In fact, the highest per capita Muslim income is in Gujarat. What you (the Congress) could not do in 55 years, he (Modi) has done in 10 years. Now, even the court has ruled that the allegations against him (in connection with the Gujarat riots) are baseless. What else is left against him?” he asked.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the juxtaposition of Rajnath’s entreaty to Muslims with Gujarat 2002 caused an inference that his statement amounted to a mea culpa to the minorities.

A source close to the BJP president claimed today that his statement must be read as an “anticipatory apology” for “mistakes” the party might commit in the future towards the minorities. “He meant in future, he will make amends,” the source stressed.

The RSS had accepted the BJP’s broadly agreed upon strategy to not raise communal issues in the prelude to the Lok Sabha elections and to not get “provoked” by the Congress’s “baits” to “communally polarise” the discourse. The BJP is also keen to mothball controversial topics to keep alive the possibility of attracting fresh allies if the NDA falls short of majority.

But the RSS is not expected to loosen the leash to such an extent that the BJP risks alienating its core base and starts believing that the political leadership can call the shots.

It is learnt that sections of the RSS and the BJP were as upset with Rajnath as they were with L.K. Advani for allegedly going overboard on Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Pakistan.

“The BJP president could have focused his speech on the need for inclusive development and growth for all communities instead of going into perceived mistakes of omissions and commissions,” a Sangh source said.

Today, the BJP “clarified” and “amended” Rajnath’s statements by resorting to the usual defence of being “misquoted”.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain put the onus of apologising on the Congress, quoting Rajnath’s tweets. “The Congress and its government have destroyed the communal and social harmony of India. The BJP has always pursued the path of social harmony and positive secularism. The Congress must apologise to the nation and not the BJP,” said Hussain.The Shiv Sena, the BJP’s oldest ally, publicly protested Rajnath’s address.

Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said: “I do not think anybody needs to apologise on the Godhra issue.”

Raut wondered that if the BJP — whose “hallmark”, he said, was Hindutva — spoke in this fashion, there would be little to differentiate it from the Congress.