Beleaguered by the not-so-rosy picture on the economic front, intensifying Dalit protests and sporadic farmers’ unrest across the country, and struggling to regain its dominance in the perception battle, the BJP has decided to use the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast verdict as a key election issue to consolidate its support base among the majority community, according to senior party leaders.
The party’s campaign in Karnataka in the coming days will highlight the “anti-Hindu” stance of the main Opposition Congress party, sources said.
The BJP is gearing up to take on the Congress as its main rival in Karnataka, which goes to the polls on May 12, and in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, all of which will face elections later this year.
According to a source in the party, the BJP will ensure that words such as “saffron terror” and “Hindu terror” —- which the party alleges the Congress had used during the UPA regime, and which the latter denies —- “haunt” the Congress in the forthcoming state elections, and in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
“The party will use it (Congress’s alleged anti-Hindu stance) very aggressively,” a party leader said.
Hours after an NIA court in Hyderabad acquitted Hindutva activist Aseemanand and four others in Mecca Masjid case on Monday, the BJP had called a press conference and launched a scathing attack on the Congress. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that the opposition party had “defamed” Hindus for votes, and sought an apology from Congress leaders for using terms such as “saffron terror”and “Hindu terror”.
Senior Congress leader P LPunia said that neither Congress president Rahul Gandhi nor the party has ever used the words “saffron terror”.
On Tuesday, Patra addressed the media and again sought an apology from Rahul and Sonia Gandhi for defaming Hindus “globally”. He also cited a telegram, which he said is sourced from Wikileaks, to drive home his point.
“If Congress considers India to be its own, then Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi must apologise to the whole country for defaming the great Hindu religion by trying to prove that there was something called ‘saffron terror’,” Patra said.
He showed copies of the telegram sourced from Wikileaks, quoting a conversation between then US ambassador and Rahul Gandhi when the Congress-led UPA was in power. According to the transcript of the conversation, Rahul had purportedly said that saffron terror was a bigger threat than the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Congress countered the BJP raking up alleged Wikileak revelations about Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Addressing the media, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill referred to reports that Jaitley had met Robert Blake, charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in India, on May 6, 2005, during which he told the US diplomat that Hindu nationalism was an opportunistic issue for the BJP. Quoting the leaked cable, Shergill said Jaitley had also agreed with Blake’s point that Narendra Modi was a polarising personality.