Remarks made by Gujarat Congresss campaign in-charge Shankersinh Vaghela at the partys minorities cell convention at Preksha Bharti (Koba) in Gandhinagar on Sunday have upset certain Muslim leaders.
At least 30-odd speakers were given three minutes each to address the gathering that consisted mainly of women and infants (wearing party scarves!) and young boys.
While exhorting the minorities to come out in large numbers to vote for the Congress,Vaghela told the audience,Tamara bharose ame badnam thaya,Radhanpur ma Shankarulla Khan banelo (I became infamous as Shankarulla Khan in Radhanpur). Vaghela was referring to a 1997 by-election in which pictures of him sporting the skull cap had been circulated by rivals.
Unmindful that his words may have offended some in the audience,Vaghela continued,Your low turnout will not do. It must be 90 per cent minimum. The reason,the Congress already bears the accusation of being a party of Muslims,so the onus of ensuring victory lies on Muslims.
In 2002 and 2007,there was Godhra… Akshardham… bringing the burnt bodies to Ahmedabad to divide people. All elections were fought on Hindu vs Muslims issue…, he said.
Later,Bharuch MLA Iqbal Patel agreed that Vaghelas utterances were indeed harsh and hurtful and that it could be seen from the mood of the audience immediately after the speech.
Asked if any group could be instructed to vote for a party by way of right,he said this might lead a to reaction in the community later.
GPCC president Arjun Modhwadia said it was typical of Vaghela to use such tone in community meetings but he should have understood the popular sentiment at the convention.
I later spoke to him on this and he told me that his words might have been harsh but the spirit was not wrong, Modhwadia said.
The state Congress chief refused to comment on AICC secretary Irshad Mirza not being invited to the meet.