Cong riot test for Bachchan

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  • Published 30.03.10

March 29: The Congress today stoked its battle of attrition with Amitabh Bachchan, daring the new brand ambassador of Gujarat to clarify his views on the 2002 carnage.

“We have no problems with Mr Bachchan promoting the lions of Gir or the sands of Kutch, but we have only one question to ask of him: ‘Please spell out your views on the horrendous Gujarat carnage of 2002’,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said in New Delhi.

The attack came after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi today said that those opposing the actor’s promotion of the state were “Talibans of untouchability”.

Tewari said Bachchan would be stripped of his brand ambassador’s job the moment he uttered a word against the Modi government’s record during the anti-Muslim violence of 2002.

“Mr Bachchan cannot construct walls between Gujarat’s lions and the communal violence and choose to see them separately; he must tell us what his views on the riots are,” he said.

The Congress-Bachchan cold war escalated recently when the actor — who had long fallen out of favour with the Gandhi family — turned up at a government event in Mumbai last week, embarrassing the party.

Modi today waded into the row, writing in his blog that the controversy over Bachchan now stood exposed as a conspiracy against Gujarat. “These ‘Talibans of Untouchability’ have lost all their sensibilities in their pursuit of anti-Gujarat attitudes,” he wrote. “They may well in future tell us not to eat even salt. They may even ban the eating of Amul butter and milk and order our young people not to wear denim jeans! And guess why? Because Gujarat produces these things.”

Modi left no one in doubt about who his targets were, saying “these people, while brandishing Mahatma Gandhi’s name, are… busy creating a new viciousness in the flow of our public life”.

Union minister Ambika Soni hit back, saying the chief minister was “very, very frustrated” at being questioned by a riot probe team. “This has apparently (led) him to use the word ‘Taliban’ in a light and flippant manner,” she said.

Tewari scoffed: “One day he (Modi) is questioned for 10 hours by an SIT (special investigation team) ordered by the Supreme Court, and the next he shares a dais with the Chief Justice (of India). What sort of chief minister is this? If they have any shame, the BJP should sack Modi.”

The Bachchan-Congress controversy deepened on Saturday when posters of the superstar’s son Abhishek and a video message from him on climate change were removed from an event attended by Delhi’s Congress chief minister, Sheila Dikshit.