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Congress questions Modi silence

New Delhi, July 29: Several Congress leaders used Id to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence on recent incidents of communal violence even as Sonia Gandhi and Rahul avoided any political overtones in their festival messages.

While party general secretaries Digvijaya Singh and Shakeel Ahmed tweeted about communal tension, spokesperson Shashi Tharoor said the Prime Minister’s silence on the incidents was worrying.

Mani Shankar Aiyar recalled the “2002 pogrom” in Gujarat and asserted that Modi had not yet expressed regret.

The comments suggested the Congress was determined to fight battles against Modi on the communalism plank. At the same time, the move to hit out at him on Id betrayed the leaders’ enduring bitterness against the Prime Minister.

Aiyar’s acerbic remarks, made in an article on a website, showed nothing had changed despite Modi’s astounding victory. Aiyar wrote: “The communal divide has paid Modi huge electoral dividends, first in Gujarat, now in the country as a whole. But the nation has suffered. The suffering continues. That is the price that a want of morality in the leadership extracts.”

Digvijaya’s tweeted: “Eid Mubarak to all. May this Year be the Year of Communal Harmony. May God drill sense in those who incite Communal Hatred and Violence.”

Ahmed wrote: “So, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has briefed the Prime Minister that the medicine the BJP has prescribed for Uttar Pradesh is proving very effective? Medicine of hatred!”

Like Aiyar, Tharoor wrote exhaustively. “Id is as good a day as any to remind our new government that they rode to power despite the fears of large sections of our society — shared by 69% of the electorate — that the Sangh parivar is too divisive a force to govern a plural society like India. In particular, given the horrors of 2002 perpetrated on his watch, and his subsequent rhetorical excesses, there were real doubts as to whether Narendra Modi would reach out to Muslims, and indeed whether their needs even figured in his idea of India.”

Tharoor referred to incidents such as the Pune techie’s murder by a fringe Hindutva group, the Maharashtra Sadan force-feeding incident, the Sania Mirza controversy and a Goa minister’s “Hindu Rashtra” hope under Modi.

“It is in this context that PM’s silence bothers me. It’s not just that he’s ignoring the media. My bigger concern is that I believe he is missing an opportunity to send a signal of reassurance to a vulnerable minority that needs it. This sin of omission is all the more glaring because of the litany of recent incidents that his silence has slighted.”

Tharoor added that “each of these incidents is deplorable in itself, but cumulatively they add up to a disturbing vindication of all the fears the BJP’s ascendancy had created since 1989, and which had been sharpened by the events of 2002 that Modi had sought to live down”. “The Prime Minister’s silence on these actions and utterances by his followers leaves the worrying impression that he condones them.”

Aiyar recounted controversies that dogged the government and the Prime Minister’s “thundering silence” on them.

“A minister in Modi’s government is accused of rape — and with a mulishness more becoming of a worthier cause, the Prime Minister refuses to sack or even suspend the man. And even when a BJP MLA (Andhra legislator K. Lakhsman) utters scandalous, defamatory remarks against a youth and women’s icon like Sania Mirza, thundering is the silence from PMO. Is it only incidental that Sania is a Muslim — and does he share his MLA’s view that she is to be deleted because she has had the temerity to marry a Pakistani?” Aiyar asked.

He also accused Modi of not voicing sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza. “Is it no surprise then that the massacre of 700 Palestinians does not evoke even a simper of sympathy for the innocent victims? The same person who thundered from every election platform about the venality of the Congress, and furiously twittered away about this, now silences his mobile and locks up his lap-top? Is this because, as his defenders claim, he is suddenly overwhelmed by his official duties? Or is this the Silence of the Lambs?”