I&B minister Prakash Javdekar went to the extent of asking if Mr Gandhi’s mindset had changed due to the change in his constituency.
New Delhi: Pakistan’s petition to the United Nations on Kashmir saw the Congress and the BJP engage in a bitter war of words on Wednesday, with each questioning the other’s commitment to nationalism. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi turned the debate, and said while he had many differences with the government, he knew Pakistan was fomenting violence in the region and Kashmir was an integral part of India. The BJP countered by saying that Mr Gandhi had shamed the nation by his comments on Jammu and Kashmir.
I&B minister Prakash Javdekar went to the extent of asking if Mr Gandhi’s mindset had changed due to the change in his constituency. Having lost the election in his traditional stronghold Amethi, Mr Gandhi won the Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad, a minority-dominated seat, in Kerala.
The heated exchange started shortly after it came to light that Pakistan had in its petition to the UN quoted Mr Gandhi as saying that people were “dying” in Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after this, Mr Gandhi tweeted Wednesday that Kashmir was India’s internal issue and attacked Pakistan for instigating and supporting violence there.
The Congress leader said though he disagrees with the government on many issues, he is clear that Kashmir was an internal issue and there was no room for Pakistan to interfere in it. “There is violence in Jammu & Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan, which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world,” he added.
The Congress Party also officially hit out at Pakistan for “mischievously” dragging Mr Gandhi’s name in its petition moved in the United Nations to justify its “lies” and misinformation on Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Congress has noticed reports citing an alleged petition moved by the Pakistani government at the UN on Jammu and Kashmir, wherein name of Shri Rahul Gandhi has been mischievously dragged to justify the pack of lies and deliberate misinformation being spread by Pakistan,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a statement.
On August 10, at the meeting of the Congress Working Committee, Mr Gandhi had come out midway and told the media: “Things are going very wrong there. There are reports of violence, of people dying. We stopped deliberations at our meeting to conduct a presentation on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It is imperative that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Central government come clean on the matter.”
The ruling BJP was on its part quick to latch on to the Pakistani statement to the UN. Mr Javadekar said that Mr Gandhi had “shamed the nation” with his comments on J&K. He demanded an apology both from Rahul Gandhi and the Congress alleging the Congress leader’s remarks had been used by Pakistan in its petition to the UN.
Referring to Mr Gandhi’s tweets Wednesday morning, he said: “Rahul Gandhi today stated that Kashmir is an internal matter and violence is linked to Pakistan, a complete U-turn. Why? Because the nation was enraged, they wanted him to.”
Mr Javadekar said Rahul Gandhi had repeatedly said on camera that the situation in the Valley was not good and that people were dying due to violence. “You were wrong, Rahul Gandhi. Things are fine in J&K, there is no violence as you imagined. People haven’t died. Pakistan used his remarks. The Pakistani application to the UN mentions remarks made by Rahul Gandhi. The application states that acts of violence have been acknowledged by mainstream party leaders such as Rahul Gandhi,” he added.
When he said Mr Gandhi had changed after a change in his constituency, he said his remarks were not about the constituency but its representative. Union minister Smriti Irani, who defeated Mr Gandhi in Amethi, said: “It is not the first time that Pakistan is finding support from Rahul Gandhi.”
The Congress was quick to react to the latest attack, with Mr Surjewala saying: “The misinformation minister of the BJP government, Prakash Javdekar, has lost his political balance. It is tragic that Prakash Javdekar is twisting a statement made by Rahul Gandhi which reflected that the Indian National Congress and all other parties are united.”
“We are in unison to take on the fake and false propaganda of Pakistan vis-a-vis the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Shri Rahul Gandhi categorically said that Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh were, are and shall always remain an integral part of the Indian Union. No one on the planet, including Pakistan, has a right to question that,” he added.