Oppn to unitedly fight BJP, RSS, preserve ‘composite culture’

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New Delhi, Aug 17 (PTI): Over a dozen opposition parties on Thursday launched a scathing attack on the RSS and accused the Modi government of not fulfilling its promises, as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi demanded a ‘sach Bharat’ or a true India instead of ‘Swachch Bharat’. Gandhi also attacked the BJP’s ideological mentor, the RSS, and accused it of trying to divide society on the lines of caste and religion.

The platform for opposition unity was the ‘Sanjhi Virasat Bachao’ (save our composite culture) meeting hosted by rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and attended by a host of leaders, including those from the Congress, CPI-M, CPI, SP, BSP, NCP, RJD, NC, JD-S and RLD. Addressing the gathering, which included former prime minister Manmohan Singh as well as the CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Gandhi said he backed an India that stood for truth.

“Modi ji says he wants to create a ‘Swachch Bharat’ but we want a ‘sach Bharat’…We don’t want your ‘fake Bharat’,” Gandhi said and alleged, “Wherever he goes he lies.” He, however, did not elaborate further. Stressing the need for unity in the fight against the BJP and the RSS, the Congress vice president said, “If we all fight unitedly, I can tell you they will not be seen anywhere.”

Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress vice president’s observations were more of a “political cry” arising out of a deep sense of dismay on why he and his party were being rejected by the people of the country. The opposition meet reflected “hypocrisy”, he said.

Today’s meet was also seen as a show of strength by Sharad Yadav, who has parted ways with his old-time colleague and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, amid speculation that the JD-U would split. If the people united, “even a Hitler” could not stand before them, said Yadav, who appeared to emerge as a rallying point for the opposition with leaders collectively endorsing his call for preserving India’s composite culture.

“I am confident that when people of this country, world stand united, even Hitler cannot win over them,” Yadav said. Gandhi also accused the BJP of not fulfilling the promises made to the people during the 2014 general elections, including bringing back black money stashed abroad and creating jobs for youth. He said unemployment in the country was the highest in eight years but did not give any figures to back his claim.

Alleging that the RSS knew its views would not help them win elections, he said it was trying to plant its people in every institution. “Till the time RSS did not rule India, they never saluted the national flag…You can look at this nation in two ways. One says this country is mine, other says I belong to the country. That’s the difference between RSS and us,” he said.

Referring to the theme of the meeting, CPI(M) general secretary Yechury said several Hindu and Muslims leaders fought against the British but “this composite heritage is being threatened now”. Calling for a joint fight against “divisive and communal” forces, he said more Muslims chose to stay back in India than go to Pakistan after partition.

But this composite culture is now being tampered with to convert India into a “Hindu Rashtra”, Yechury alleged. “We are with Sharad Yadav. If we have to save this composite culture, Sharad ji will hold the key to the movement to save it. He will have to complete the task,” he said.

“The prime minister talks about not repeating Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. But what is he doing?” he asked, while noting that Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s recorded Independence Day speech was blocked by public broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio. “We will fight against the policies destroying diversity,” Yechury added.

Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, said, “I urge Sharad ji to prepare an action plan… We will go to every nook and corner of the country and warn people that we will not be able to save the country, democracy, humanity if we do not save our composite culture, heritage.” This was required to defeat forces, which were trying to destroy the country’s social fabric, in 2019, Patel said.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said Yadav was the “real JD-U” and noted that he had declined a cabinet berth and chosen the path of secularism. CPI’s Raja dubbed the RSS an “unconstitutional” authority and alleged it was instructing the government in every matter.

“They are trying to destroy our composite culture by dividing the people. They want to win elections in any manner.” National Conference leader Abdullah also launched a scathing attack on the state of affairs in the country but did not name anybody.

“India can face China and Pakistan but unfortunately today the threat is from inside not from outside.” “Andar koi chor baitha hua hai jo hamara beda garak kar raha hai (There is a thief sitting inside who is determined to spoil everything),” Abdullah added in an apparent broadside against the Centre.

Reacting to the meeting, Prasad said it was “hypocrisy” to talk about composite heritage and remain silent on the killing of RSS workers in Kerala allegedly by CPI(M) goons. “To this talk of composite heritage which is going on today, I have a question. The RSS workers in Kerala’s Kannur who are being allegedly killed by CPI(M) workers, which heritage is that,” he asked.

The Congress termed as “unfortunate and intemperate” Prasad’s comments on Gandhi. Referring to Prasad’s remarks on political violence in the country, Tewari said the political killings had been condemned by the Congress repeatedly. “While the law minister sees the violence of the CPI(M), he does not see the violence which is unleashed by his own party men and organisations which owe allegiance to it,” he said.

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