NEW DELHI: The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday held countrywide protest demonstrations demanding sacking of union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde over his remarks on “saffron terrorism” even going to the extent of threatening to disrupt coming budget session of parliament.
The Congress hit back saying the protests were only a “diversionary tactic” by the BJP to divert attention from inner party problems.
Shinde, speaking at the Congress “Chintan Shivir,” a brainstorming meeting of party leaders in Jaipur last week, had said that while the Government was trying to maintain peace and communal harmony in the country, the BJP and RSS were running training camps for “Hindu terrorism.”
He had later clarified that what he meant was “saffron terrorism” about which reports had appeared in the media over several years.
Senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, addressing a rally at Jantar Mantar said, “Shinde’s statement is an insult to our culture.
“Saffron is a colour that has existed even before the existence of BJP. It is a symbol of sacrifice and Indian culture having no connection with terrorism.”
Slamming the government for what she perceived as a soft approach towards Pakistan, from where terrorist groups had planned, trained and conducted terrorist strikes on India, she said even during the recent hostilities at the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir the government was trying to arrange visas for writers, aged people and others.
It was only after gauging the mood of the people that the government sent out a strong message to the neighbouring country, she added.
“You call the BJP a terrorist organisation and then retract. But do not think that we will call off the agitation. Until the Congress party apologises, the prime minister apologises and Shinde is sacked we will continue with the protest,” Swaraj said.
Asking Shinde not to cross his limits, Sushma Swaraj said politics can be practised to the extent that it benefits the Congress or even harms the BJP, but “should not be taken to a level where national interest is affected.”
Sushma Swaraj accused the Congress of “double speak” on Shinde’s remarks, and said one of its general secretaries had justified Shinde’s remarks and another had sought to distance the party from them.
BJP’s new president Raj Nath Singh, who took charge on Wednesday also addressed the rally going a step further saying the issue will be raised in parliament if Shinde is not dismissed before the start of the session.
“We will create a situation where Soniaji and Manmohanji will have no other recourse but to sack Shinde. Meanwhile, the Congress party closed ranks to defend the home minister.
Senior leader Digvijay Singh said, “If the BJP wants Shinde to apologise, then we would like Rajnath Singh, Lal Krishna Advani and Uma Bharti to apologies too. Because even they met people like Pragya Singh in the jail.”
Pragya Singh, along with Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Purohit, is among the accused in the Malegaon blast case of 2008.
Union Minister V. Narayanasamy termed the BJP protest as “unwarranted and unnecessary” and accused the opposition party of trying to convert a “non-issue into an issue.”