Accusing the Congress of practising ‘appeasement politics’, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the party was playing the religion card that might lead to division and communal disharmony as witnessed during the 1947 partition. Addressing a press conference in Delhi, Sitharaman said the Congress would be held liable if any incident of disharmony took place ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“Congress is playing a dangerous game. It’s playing up the card of religion. It’s frightening that it may lead to division and communal disharmony which prevailed during 1947 partition. Congress party shall be solely responsible if any disharmony plays out between now and 2019 polls,” ANI quoted the defence minister as saying.
Sitharaman’s latest charge comes in the backdrop of the controversy generated by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor over his ‘Hindu Pakistan’ remark and Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Muslim intellectuals at his residence. Tharoor’s remarks at an event in Thiruvananthapuram that India would become a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ if the saffron party won elections in 2019 has been vehemently criticised by the BJP, which has demanded an apology from the Congress president.
Meanwhile, Gandhi’s meeting with a group of intellectuals from the Muslim community a couple of days ago, possibly to counter the BJP’s Sampark for Samarthan campaign, has generated much consternation in the saffron camp.
Sitharaman also touched upon a gamut of issues during the conference, with the most important being the re-scheduling of the twice-delayed ‘2+2′ dialogue with the US. The defence minister confirmed that the strategic talks would now be held in the first week of September.
On the United Nations’ report on human right violations in Jammu and Kashmir, Sitharaman said ground realities were categorically ignored by the organisation. “The Indian Army has been exercising the highest restraint in dealing with terrorists, protesters in Jammu and Kashmir. It has set up schools, trained boys and girls for higher education, made youth from the state to travel to the rest of India,” she said.
On the deal with Russia to buy S-400 air defence system, which has attracted the attention of the US, Sitharaman said the agreement was at a conclusive stage. “It is almost at the conclusive stage. It will happen soon. But when it is going to be finalised, I can’t say,” Sitharaman said.