At a time when fault lines appeared to harden in the Congress between the high command and an increasingly isolated group of senior rebels, Digvijay Singh was seen praising Union Home Minister Amit Shah for helping him out during the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections.
Addressing a gathering on Thursday during the launch of his book ‘Narmada Ki Pathik’ in Bhopal, the senior Congress leader said, “During the 2017 polls, while travelling to Gujarat from Maharashtra, we were stuck in the middle of a forest area at around 10.30 pm as there was no road to go through it. To my surprise, a forest officer came up to me and said that Amit Shah had sent him to help them out.”
#WATCH | Once, we reached Gujarat at 10:30 pm. There was no way ahead through forested area&no facility for an overnight stay. A forest officer arrived& you’ll be surprised to know that he told me that Amit Shah had directed him to fully cooperate with us: Digvijaya Singh,Cong pic.twitter.com/9wa5umk0nk
— ANI (@ANI) September 30, 2021
He added, “The officer said that he had been asked by Shah to help Singh and his team out. This is at a time when the elections are on and I am one of the harshest critics of the BJP. Despite that, Shah had asked the officer to help us, who not only got us out of the area but also arranged food and other necessary stuff for all.”
Singh also went on to praise RSS workers and said, “I’m also the biggest critic of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and yes there is difference in ideology. However, wherever I went (during the yatra), ever 2 or 4 days, I would get a message that an RSS worker wants to meet me. When I asked them as to why they are taking so much of trouble to meet their harshest critic, they would say that they have been instructed to meet and hold discussions.”
Saying that it is this political balance that leaders have forgotten nowadays, Singh said, “Till that point, I and Shah had never spoken face-to-face. However, I conveyed my regards and thanked him for the help. It is this mutual respect that we often tend to forget.”
When senior congress leader Kamal Nath was asked about Singh’s remarks, he refused to comment. However, Vivek Tankha, who was also present at the event, told Indian Express, “What Digvijay Singh said was independent of any other developments. He was talking about his religious journey and the comments were made in that context during the launch of his book. India is a large polity. Not everything can start and end with politics and I agree with him. He has even made it clear that he has never met Amit Shah.”
The statement comes at a time when many leaders among the old guard went public with their criticism of how the party was being run. P Chidambaram, in a carefully calibrated tweet, said: “I feel helpless when we cannot start meaningful conversations within party forums. I also feel hurt and helpless when I see pictures of Congress workers raising slogans outside the residence of a colleague and MP. The safe harbour to which one can withdraw seems to be silence.” Chidambaram could not be reached for comment.”
Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari, too, said that people in the AICC, who were given responsibility for Punjab, could not appreciate the way the state had progressed over the last four and a half years under Captain Amarinder Singh which eventually led to the current crisis.