The raging row over nationalism was at the centre of BJP chief Amit Shah’s inaugural address at the party’s National Executive meeting on Saturday as he asserted that it will not tolerate criticism against the country and that freedom of expression cannot be a plea for shouting anti-national slogans.
Shah attacked Congress, saying its main focus was to ensure that the Modi dispensation does not perform, as he hailed the government for providing “corruption-free governance” and “dynasty-free leadership and giving stability and hope to people”.
Hitting out at the Left and Congress for their criticism of the government over freedom of expression, he said wryly that “supporters” of Maoism and Stalin were talking about it and recalled the Emergency execesses to target the main opposition party.
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Briefing reporters after Shah spoke, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the BJP president also spoke in detail about the various “pro-people” measures of the government, especially the budget, which he claimed to be a “game-changer” in national politics. It was, however, the contentious political debate over issues, which BJP has linked to its pet theme of nationalism, that was the key component of Shah’s speech as he sought to slam Congress over its vice president Rahul Gandhi’s “justification” of anti-national slogan- shouting in the JNU.
“In JNU, slogans were raised to destroy India. Rahul Gandhi went there and said nothing about these slogans but instead tried to justify them on the ground of freedom of expression. “BJP welcomes any criticism of the party, person or government, but it will not tolerate criticism of the country. While BJP fully respects freedom of expression, patently anti-national activity cannot be justified on the plea of freedom of expression. It is plainly not acceptable,” Shah said.
On the row over ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, he said a large number of people sacrificed their lives shouting this slogan, which is older than BJP and RSS. It was unfortunate that a controversy over it had occured so many years after independence, he added. He had receny said 99 per cent of people are in support of raising the slogan and his party will convince the remainder.
Drawing comparison with Congress over the freedom of expression issue, Shah said BJP did not “oppose” those who ran a campaign of “calumny and baseless charges” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for years and highlighted suppression of media during the Emergency to attack the opposition party. The BJP chief accused Congress of obstructing the passage of GST Bill for “political reasons and its arrogance” and took on Rahul Gandhi over him questioning the government’s work. While scams of Rs 12 lakh crore occured during UPA rule, honesty and transparency are the pillars of the BJP-led NDA government which is committed to the welfare of poor and
farmers, Prasad said quoting the BJP chief.
To ensure that the government could not work, Congress has been levelling baseless allegations against it, he said. He exhorted party leaders and workers to carry to the masses government’s successes and counter Congress’s “unfounded allegations”.