While the defence minister was out of line, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went a step further at a rally in UP’s Azamgarh the very next day.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman created quite a stir recently when she went on virulent attack mode, saying the Congress would be solely responsible if communal tensions and riots engulfed the country. Her anger rose from a false Urdu newspaper report which said at a meeting with some members of the Muslim community, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had declared the Congress was a “Muslim party”. However, Ms Sitharaman’s oblique threat of riots being unleashed is condemnable. It can’t be justified under any circumstances — even if a leader of a rival party had said what was attributed to Mr Gandhi.
In the event, the news report was wrong. A respected historian, Irfan Habib, who attended the meeting of some Muslim intellectuals with the Congress chief, has pointed out that the news report was in utter disregard of the facts.
This brings home an important truth — that no one, especially those holding high office, is expected to go on a poisonous diatribe based on fictitious “information”. This is like spreading a high-voltage rumour and, on that basis, start a charged political campaign.
While the defence minister was out of line, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went a step further at a rally in UP’s Azamgarh the very next day. He confirmed his defence minister’s supposed information — suggesting that the duo were acting in tandem. Mr Modi said he had read that the Congress was a “Muslim party”, according to its president, but jokingly added it was a party “only for Muslim men” as it doesn’t support the BJP’s view on triple talaq. The PM is, however, simply not expected to go public with everything he reads, without verifying the facts. That is irresponsible, and regrettable.