Spearheading Congress’ one-day nationwide fast, party chief Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being “casteist” and “anti-Dalit”. He added that his party will always stand against the BJP’s “oppressive” ideology. Speaking to media at Rajghat, where the Congress leaders are holding fast against alleged communalism and non-functioning of Parliament, Gandhi said his party will defeat the BJP-led NDA in the 2019 general election.
“The entire country knows that PM Modi is anti-Dalit, it is not a secret…The BJP follows ideology of oppressing Dalits, tribals, minorities. We will stand against and defeat it in 2019 general polls,” Gandhi told reporters. BJP’s Dalit MPs say prime minister Modi is “casteist”, he said.
The Congress president sat for several hours at Rajghat and was joined by senior leaders, including Kamal Nath, Mallikarjun Kharge, Sheila Dikshit, Ashok Gehlot, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and the party’s communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala.
The 1984 anti-Sikh riots cast a shadow over the ‘Sadhbhawna Upwas’ (fast for harmony) with Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, listed as accused for their alleged role in the riots, being asked to stay away from the stage where Gandhi and the other leaders were sitting. While Kumar left the venue soon thereafter, Tytler sat in the audience along with party workers.
The Congress also said the fast for harmony is also against the communal politics of the BJP and non-functioning of Parliament, where the Congress wanted to debate issues of national importance such as the PNB bank scam, CBSE paper leak, alleged dilution of SC/ST Act, special status to Andhra Pradesh and setting up of the Cauvery water management board. “This is a fight for the ideology and values which India represents. We won’t allow the politics of hatred and division aimed at garnering votes to succeed,” Surjewala told reporters.
Alleging that the Modi government’s politics of hatred and division had marred this country, he said, “Divide and rule is the policy, like the Britishers, of the present BJP government. Divide the society, divide religions, divide communities, divide castes, that is the DNA of the Modi government.” He said the government had divided the country on religious lines and was now trying to divide it between Dalit and non-Dalits.
Congress workers were fasting across the country to convey to people in the country that they should not be allured by the “diversionary and divisive tactics of the Modi government”.
BJP calls Congress’ fast farce
The BJP, however, called Congress’ ‘fast for harmony’ a “farce” after its leaders were seen eating “chhola bhaturas”. Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said the Congress had fallen into its own trap. “What we have seen from Rahul Gandhi today is not a fast but the farce of a fast. (It was) an attempt by his party to fast track his politics to burnish his credentials despite people rejecting him time and again.” “It was not ‘upwaas’ (fast) but ‘uphaas’ (mockery),” he added.
BJP’s official Twitter handle also showed a photograph of local Delhi Congress leaders eating ‘chhola bhaturas’, which they claimed was ahead of the fast.
“After moral victory, Congress has now come up with the idea of ‘symbolic fast’ powered by chhole puri,” said a tweet with the hashtag “#RahulOnAFarce”.
Patra cited the photograph and accused the party of “double standards” and making fun of Dalits. Taking a dig at Gandhi, Patra told reporters that “he cannot wake up in morning to start his fast on schedule”.
(With PTI inputs)