Mumbai: The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress party for second day in a row on Saturday sparred over a report published by Inquilab in which the Urdu daily attributed a statement by Rahul Gandhi which the Congress said is "fake".
Congress President Rahul Gandhi had held a meeting with some Muslim leaders on Wednesday. While reporting about the meeting, Inquilab quoted Rahul saying that "the Congress is party of Muslims."
After the reported statement created a storm in the political circles with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who while accusing the Congress party of playing communal politics said, "The Congress is playing a dangerous game and is using the religion card in the run-up to the 2019 general election.”
The Congress, Sitharaman said, was speaking a language that was against the Constitution. She also cited Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s remarks that India would become a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ if the BJP wins next year’s election.
“Rahul Gandhi has to come out to say very clearly what he meant when he said the Congress is a Muslim party,” she said. “Let Congress President come out clear, Is Congress a Muslim Party?
Sitharaman said the Congress party shall be solely responsible for any polarisation between now and the 2019 elections.
Taking note of Nirmala Sitaraman's accusations, Congress immediately issued a statement slamming the Urdu daily and said that the statement attributed to Rahul Gandhi in the report by Inquilab was false. "Rahul Gandhi never made such statement. Congress belongs to 132 crore Indians", party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Surjewala also charged the BJP of “once again trying to polarise the electorate before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, and said that “it is the only thing Prime Minister Narendra Modi falls upon before every election."
Randeep Surjewala also said rumours take over when governance fails. “When the government is on the path of lying, then rumours become the main policy of the government,” he told reporters.
However, despite the rebuttal by the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday jumped into the debate and referring the statement wrongly attributed to Rahul Gandhi asked the Congress to answer if it is the party of only Muslim men.
"The real face of these parties was revealed by their approach on triple talaq. On one side the Centre is making efforts to ease and improve the lives of women and on the other these parties are working to put the lives of women, especially Muslim women, in danger, he said criticising the opposition”, Modi said while addressing a public meeting Azamgarh, part of his two-day visit to eastern Uttar Pradesh.
"Crores of Muslim women had always demanded that triple talaq should be banned, as it is also banned in Islamic countries. I read in the newspaper that the Congress president had said that the Congress is a party of Muslims, and there has been discussion on this for the past two days”, he said adding, “I am not surprised as when Manmohan Singh was the PM, he had said that Muslims have the first right over natural resources.”
“But I want to ask the Congress whether it is a party of Muslim men alone," Modi said.
Responding to Prime Minister Modi’s comments Congress hit back accusing him of referring a “fake news report”.
“On Saturday it was the turn of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to legitimise an incorrect statement attributed to Congress President Rahul Gandhi. An Urdu daily owned by the owners of Dainik Jagran, a newspaper with a pronounced pro-BJP tilt, had quoted the Congress president as saying that Congress was a Muslim Party”, Congress mouthpiece National Herald said.
“Despite denials by people present at the Congress President’s meeting with Muslim intellectuals, the Prime Minister not only repeated the statement on Saturday at Azamgarh in UP but took a swipe by asking Congress to clarify if it was the party of Muslim men or Muslim women too”, it said.
Meanwhile, Inquilab is maintaining a guarded silence and has neither refuted the charges by the Congress nor acknowledged its mistake.
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