BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters that Mr Gandhi had not denied the comment attributed to him.
New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has been targeted repeatedly by the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for calling the Congress a “party for Muslims”, finally reacted to the controversy on Tuesday by choosing to smash the BJP’s Hindu-Muslim binary worldview with a poignant message of inclusiveness.
“I stand with the last person in the line. The exploited, marginalised and the persecuted. Their religion, caste or beliefs matter little to me. I seek out those in pain and embrace them. I erase hatred and fear. I love all living beings. I am the Congress,” the 47-year-old Congress chief tweeted. But the BJP, ignoring the nuance and secular sentiment in his tweet, chose to attack him further.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters that Mr Gandhi had not denied the comment attributed to him. “He (Gandhi) has still not denied it. We could not see a negation of what Rahul Gandhi has said. It is a confession. He has clearly accepted it through his tweet that the Congress is a party for Muslims,” Mr Patra said. He further added that Mr Gandhi’s tweet has further confused rather than clarified the issue. The Congress president, he said, is in “competition with AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi to usurp the legacy of Mr Jinnah”.
For a week the BJP has latched on to a reported remark of Mr Gandhi in an Urdu daily, which quoted him as saying that the Congress was a party for Muslims at a meeting with Muslim intellectuals on July 11. First defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman raised it and then Mr Modi referred to the statement at a rally in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday.
The Congress denied the remark as “false and baseless” and clarified that Mr Gandhi’s actual quote — “If BJP says that Congress is a party of Muslims, it is fine. Congress is a party of Muslims, because Muslims are weak and Congress always stands with the weak” — was being twisted.
But the BJP continued to attack Mr Gandhi. During his Azamgarh rally on Saturday, Mr Modi said, “I read in the newspapers that naamdaar (entitled) said the Congress is a party of the Muslims. I am not surprised... When the previous Prime Minister was in charge, he said openly that the first use of natural resources should be with Muslims”.
The Congress has been up in arms against the Prime Minister’s statement. Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma accused Mr Modi of having a “sick mentality and a twisted mindset” and demanded that the Prime Minister apologise for his utterances.
While Congress communications incharge Randeep Singh Surjewala clarified that no representative of the newspaper that had quoted Mr Gandhi as having made the remark was present at his meeting with Muslim intellectuals, the BJP’s onslaught has not stopped.
The ruling party has fielded senior ministers like Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar to raise the issue and its talking heads have repeatedly demanded an explanation from Mr Gandhi.