UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi Friday said the BJP had managed to “convince” people that the Congress was a “Muslim party” and indicated that Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples was an attempt to shed that perception.
“The BJP has managed to, I don’t say brainwash because that is a rude word, but it has managed to convince people, to persuade people that the Congress party is a Muslim party. In my party, the great majority is Hindu. Yes, there are Muslims too. So I fail to understand this branding us as a Muslim party,” she said at the India Today Conclave in Mumbai.
She also said the Congress had been “pushed into a corner” and so felt the need to draw attention, rather than keeping quiet, to Rahul’s frequent temple visits before the Gujarat assembly elections in December 2017. Then, his visits had sparked a debate on whether the Congress party was resorting to ‘soft Hindutva’.
Gandhi said that as a family, they have always visited temples but never made it a spectacle. “We have always been to temples. When I used to travel with Rajiv, wherever we went, we would visit at least one major, important temple. We never made a show of it. It was quite a natural thing. Rahul has gone to temples before,” she said.
Asked if Rahul’s temple visits were aimed at not letting the BJP monopolise the Hindutva movement, she said, “There is a bit of that because we have been pushed into a corner. Perhaps rather than going to a temple quietly, may be, a little more public focus on that.”
In her address, Gandhi, a Member of Parliament from Rae Bareli, also took on the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. She said India’s liberal and open democracy was giving way under the ruling establishment’s “dangerous design” and the country’s social DNA was being re-engineered. “Political opponents are being targeted through the misuse of investigative agencies. The judiciary is in turmoil, civil society is being silenced, universities and students are being straight-jacketed. Much of the media is being coerced away from its proper watchdog role, which is surely to expose misgovernance, scams and frauds,” said Gandhi.
“The noise of politics is the music of democracy. Yet, that very noise is now being muzzled. The pretext is to make India a $10 trillion economy. Yes, we need to move fast. But fast, F-A-S-T, cannot stand for first act, second think,” she said. “Acronymitis can be very contagious”.
Gandhi also said the “acche din” slogan of the BJP would go the same way as the party’s India shining campaign in 2004, which brought the Congress to power.
She also asked opposition parties to think of the “larger picture”, join hands and put aside local differences to fight against the BJP . She also said she would contest the Rae Bareli seat in Uttar Pradesh again if her party asked her and did not rule out daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s entry into politics. “It is up to her…I don’t see it now. But one never knows in the future. I don’t know really,” she said.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s constant criticism of the Congress party’s rule for decades, she asked if India was really a “giant black hole” before May 2014 and marched to progress only after the BJP came to power at the Centre.
Anil Baluni, the national head of the BJP’s media wing, said the country was defamed internationally under the UPA.“The country has seen Sonia Gandhi in different forms. As the most powerful figure when UPA was in government, the country went through depression. As the party president, she presided over the party’s decline to 44 seats and its decimation across states. And as an opposition leader, she is practising the politics of fear and deception. She has taken both the country and her own party down,” he said.