The BJP and the Congress were engaged in a war of words on Tuesday over the violence against and flight of migrant workers from Gujarat.
Accusing Gujarat Congress leaders of instigating the violence, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to expel his party MLA Alpesh Thakor for his “venomous” speeches to incite local residents in attacking outsiders. He claimed that 30 out of more than 300 people arrested by Gujarat Police for allegedly targeting migrants were Congress workers.
The Congress hit back and asked Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to observe his “raj dharma (duty)” and demanded an apology from his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath for giving a “clean chit to the Gujarat government”.
Linking the attacks to growing unemployment in Gujarat, Congress president Rahul Gandhi posted on Facebook, “Across Gujarat, poor economic policies, demonetisation and poorly executed GST have devastated industry resulting in the shutting down of factories and industrial units, leading to massive unemployment. Amongst the youth there is growing frustration and anger with the Government’s inability to create jobs. This anger and frustration is being manifested in violent attacks on migrants, across the state of Gujarat.”
Addressing the media, Patra alleged that the Congress is conspiring to “burn” the country for political gains ahead of the elections, and Thakor is acting at the behest of Rahul Gandhi in fomenting violence. “If Rahul Gandhi is really concerned about Bihar, Gujarat…then we demand that he, the Congress, immediately dismiss Alpesh Thakor from the party,” he said.
Asked why Thakor has not been arrested yet if he is inciting violence, Patra said legal opinion is being taken and it may happen. “This should not be seen as political vendetta,” he said. Hundreds of people have fled Gujarat over the last few days following attacks on some migrant workers following the rape of a 14-month-old.
A video of a speech, purportedly delivered by Thakor, was played at Patra’s press conference. It shows Thakor purportedly blaming migrants for incidents of crime in Gujarat and asking people whether they are in a mood to fight. Patra also read out a Hindi translation of the speech Thakor had ostensibly made in Gujarati.
In Ahmedabad, Thakor today denied making any incendiary speech against migrant workers. Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said incidents of attacks on migrants are now being reported from central Gujarat as well and argued that the BJP government in the state is proving to be incapable, and “perhaps unwilling to stop these incidents.”
He said, “If this contagion is not checked, this can have extremely serious repercussions with regard to the social fabric of this country. But what is even more appalling and extremely galling is the insensitive statement which has emanated out of Chief Minister Adityanath. He has given a clean chit, a character certificate to the Rupani-led Gujarat government, saying that no incidents have taken place in the past three days and whatever is being done, is being done to malign the image of Gujarat,” he said.