In what threatens to derail the Monsoon Session of Parliament that begins Wednesday, the war of words between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the main opposition Congress escalated on Sunday. The Congress launched yet another scathing attack on Modi, calling him a “peddler of untruths” and accused the government of tapping the phones of Opposition leaders and senior judges.
Top Opposition leaders will meet on Monday to discuss floor coordination in Parliament and the issue of fielding a joint candidate for the post of deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha. Congress leaders had been maintaining that the party was “open to the idea” of and is “ready” to back a non-Congress candidate for the post, but sources in the party said no decision has been taken yet. The Congress parliamentary strategy group will also meet on Monday morning before the Opposition leaders’ meeting.
The Prime Minister’s charge that the Congress is stalling the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament and his reference to an alleged remark attributed to Rahul Gandhi in an Urdu daily has become the latest flashpoint between the Congress and the government.
At a rally in Azamgarh on Saturday, Modi targeted Rahul over the alleged remark attributed to the Congress chief during his interaction with Muslim intellectuals on Wednesday. “I have read in newspapers that the Congress naamdar (dynast) has said that the Congress is a party of Muslims,” the Prime Minister said.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said on Sunday that the Prime Minister has an “unhealthy mindset” and that his thinking is “convoluted”.
“He wants to create divisions in the society…he raises such issues before every election. He is the Prime Minister of India, not just of the BJP. Calling the Congress a ‘Muslim party’ is not befitting of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister lacks knowledge in history. He writes his own history,” Sharma said.
The Prime Minister, he said, will have to be reminded that illustrious leaders of the freedom movement like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Lala Lajpat Rai and Maulana Azad have been the past presidents of the Congress. “It will be better if he keeps a list of Congress presidents in his office. Maybe then he will leave his habit of making wrong statements,” he added.
He said it is the “misfortune” of India that “we have a prime minister who does not believe in speaking the truth”.
“The Prime Minister is repeatedly lowering the dignity of his office by making untruthful statements, by distorting facts and misrepresenting history. It is a matter of shame that the Prime Minister of India is a peddler of untruths. It is very clear he is desperate…. he has nothing to show for the last four years. Instead of giving an account of the promises he made in 2014, he is restoring to untruths, half truths and lies,” he said.
“Somebody who comes from an ideology or a descendent of not only non-participants but to a large extent collaborators of the British ….is not qualified to give a certificate of nationalism, patriotism, and the commitment to the people to the Congress party,” he said.
Sharma rejected the Prime Minister’s allegation that the Congress is stalling the Triple Talaq Bill, saying it was very much in favour of the Bill. He said sending the Bill to a committee is an age-old practice and that the Congress will seek a reply from the Prime Minister in the House.
He also alleged that the telephones of the several people occupying responsible positions are being tapped. He said the list includes all the Opposition leaders, Supreme Court and High Court judges, Secretaries to Government of India, editors of the media and owners of some business houses.