The slugfest between BJP and the Congress in poll-bound Karnataka escalated on Thursday, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah calling the saffron party and the RSS “Hindutva extremists”. BJP retorted in the same breath by saying the Congress were supporters of separatists and dared the Siddaramaiah government to arrest its leaders.
The spark was lit on Wednesday after BJP chief Amit Shah, addressing a pre-election rally at Holalkere region of Chitradurga, labelled the Siddaramaiah government “anti-Hindu” for its failure to control killings of activists from the BJP, RSS and its affiliates. “As many as 21 BJP and RSS workers have been killed in Karnataka in the last three years and the government is not even investigating it. When the BJP comes to power, it will send all the people to jail. This government is an anti-Hindu government,’’ Shah said.
Countering Shah’s fire with fire, the Karnataka CM claimed, “They are themselves terrorists in the BJP and RSS.” The comment stirred a hornet’s nest, with BJP and RSS leaders lashing out at Siddaramaiah. In light of the remarks he made on Wednesday, Thursday’s statement seemed more like a damage-control exercise.
Speaking to reporters in Mysuru, Siddaramaiah said, “I had said they are Hindutva terrorists. I am also a Hindu, but I’m a Hindu with humanity, they are Hindus without humanity. That is the difference between me and… (them).” He quoted a Kannada proverb to say that “it is like one touching his shoulder to check when called a pumpkin thief,” implying that one with a guilty conscience needs no accuser.
BJP called the CM’s statement irresponsible and blamed Congress for the rise in terrorism. “If there is terrorism in this country today, Congress is the main reason for it, also for the situation in Kashmir,” PTI quoted BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje as saying. Accusing the Congress of having supported and encouraged the Khalistan movement, she said, “we have lost several officers, soldiers, leaders and also PM because of it.” Karandlaje also alleged that the Congress had “sheltered, financed and trained” LTTE and its leader Prabhakaran.
(With PTI inputs)