It’s a war of words between Rahul, Modi

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 28, 2014

Rahul Gandhi accuses Modi of abetting and pushing the Gujarat riots; BJP says the Congress Vice-President was ludicrous in his assertions

Arvind Kejriwal called him a “moron” and the BJP jeered at the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, but his interview to a television channel on Monday evening has put the spotlight back on the riot-taint on Narendra Modi.

The principal opposition party has so far carefully managed the election campaign for its prime ministerial candidate to avoid any references to the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat. The focus has been on development and traditional bijli-sadak-pani issues, with Modi trumpeting his track record and projecting Gujarat as a dream model.

Just as the campaign enters a critical phase, Rahul Gandhi, who has so far avoided any direct references to Modi, accused the BJP’s PM candidate of “abetting and pushing the riots.”

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s leader Arvind Kejriwal was the first off the block re-tweeting a comment that ruffled feathers both in the Congress and the BJP. “Stuck between a moron and a murderer, what now India”? The Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar followed, holding both the Congress and the BJP responsible for various communal riots. “Congress Governments at the Centre and Bihar were responsible for the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 and Bhagalpur riots in 1989, while the BJP Government in Gujarat was accountable for the 2002 riots.

Dynasty politics

The BJP was pushed to discuss the issue although with Rahul Gandhi’s careful references to the 1984 riots, the party found easy comparisons to draw. Senior spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress Vice-President was “ludicrous” in his various assertions, especially when it comes to democracy and dynasty politics. “Rahul Gandhi is ludicrous. How is someone, whose very rationale for existence on the political landscape is dynasty, trying to become a champion of democracy? The irony doesn’t seem to strike him.” Prasad then went on to castigate the Congress Vice-President for spreading “lies and falsehood” about the communal riots in Gujarat.

“His (Rahul Gandhi’s) allegations against the Gujarat Government about encouraging riots in 2002 not only show his ignorance but amount to rank falsehood. The Gujarat Government did its best to prevent riots, and the SIT constituted by the Supreme Court after extensive investigations, found all the motivated allegations against Narendra Modi to be false and baseless. Today, there is peace and amity in Gujarat and many persons have been convicted,” Prasad said.

Jaitley blogs

Senior leader Arun Jaitley wrote a blog underlining what he termed was the Congress’s inaction and abetment to the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, opposed to the Gujarat Government’s presumed alacrity in saving lives during the anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

“In 1984, a slogan Khoon ka Badla Khoon (blood-for-blood) started in the afternoon on October 31 at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences where Mrs Gandhi’s body lay. Congress leaders were seen leading the mobs. Sikhs were massacred at thousands of places. Nowhere did the police fire a single bullet to disperse mobs. Cases were not investigated. A Commission of Inquiry was constituted which came with a sham report. The Judge heading the Commission was subsequently elected to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress,” Jaitley wrote.

“In Gujarat, thousands of people were arrested. The badly over-stretched police fired at several places. Almost 300 rioters were killed in police firing. Thousands of prosecutions were filed. Hundreds of people have been sentenced. The Chief Minister personally went through several inquiries including the Supreme Court constituted SIT and no evidence was found against him,” he argued.

Negative impact

Arguments aside, the BJP did not believe that the issue will have any negative impact on the election campaign.

“The riots are a closed chapter. Modi has now become Vikas Purush (development man) in popular consciousness. Rahul Gandhi’s interview exposes him more than it undermines Modi’s credential,” said a senior BJP leader.

Published on January 28, 2014

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