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Congress backs Nitish's call for RSS-free India, BJP hits back

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Call For An RSS-free India, Today Received Support From Congress Which Said The Saffron Fountainhead Was “posing A Threat To The Country’s Unity And Democracy' As BJP Jumped To The Defence Of Its Mentor, Saying Its Critics Should Attend Its ‘shakha’ For A Day To Clear Their “misconceptions'.

PTI | Updated on: 17 Apr 2016, 09:37:53 PM

New Delhi :

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s call for an RSS-free India, today received support from Congress which said the saffron fountainhead was “posing a threat to the country’s unity and democracy” as BJP jumped to the defence of its mentor, saying its critics should attend its ‘shakha’ for a day to clear their “misconceptions”.

The BJP said it was unfazed by Kumar’s efforts to form a united front to counter it and that such attempts to stop the Modi government “from working for the development of the country and for the poor will not succeed”.

Maintaining that everyone was aware of the newly-elected JD(U) chief’s national ambitions, BJP spokesman Shrikant Sharma took a dig at the Congress, asking party president Sonia Gandhi to make it clear if Rahul Gandhi will lead such a front or will he be just part of it.

Congress backed Nitish Kumar’s view that the country should be made ‘Sangh-mukt’ (RSS-free) as it is “posing a threat to democracy and unity” but did not appear inclined to be a part of a broad-based alliance of secular parties to take on BJP, saying for any national-level alliance ahead of 2019 polls, parties should have a “national existence”.

Asked if Nitish Kumar can be projected as the leader of a national-level alliance he has mooted, party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said he is “a popular chief minister” who is doing good work in Bihar.

“There is no talk of leadership (led by Nitish)...You are trying to create an imaginary alliance. I told you first, an alliance at the national level...all parties are state specific parties. The understanding is with such parties in states.

“By the time 2019 elections come, the public themselves will oust the Modi government and there will be no need for any alliance,” Ahmed said, replying to queries about the possibility of forging a Nitish-led national alliance.

Congress is part of ruling alliance in Bihar. Addressing an event in Patna yesterday, Kumar had mounted a counteroffensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ slogan, saying, “Sangh-mukt Bharat banane ke liye sabhi gair BJP parties ko ek hona hoga (to usher in a Sangh-free India all non-BJP parties will have to come together).”

“Uniting against BJP and its divisive ideology is the only way to save democracy,” said Kumar, who has already talked about “largest possible unity” among secular parties.

”And for that visiting the Shakha of the Sangh is the best. Those who oppose the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the country should first at least visit its ‘shakha’ (meeting).

“Only then will they have a better understanding and their misconceptions cleared. Only then the technical glitches in their software will be fixed,” Sharma said, stressing that the RSS has always worked in the interest of the country.

Kumar’s JD(U) had snapped its 17-year-old alliance with BJP in 2013 as it was opposed to naming Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election.

Sharma said from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi, and from Rajiv Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi, all had opposed the RSS but the organisation has only grown.

“The attempt is only to stop the Modi government from taking steps for development of the country, to stop job opportunities for the youth and to stop the government from helping the poor,” Sharma said.

“You (Nitish) are unable to digest the fact that we are working for poor, weaker sections of the society. And therefore, you are not opposing BJP but the efforts to uplift the weaker sections and to empower the poor. We have no objections to what he says. He won’t succeed in his motive,” Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

RSS ideologue M G Vaidya said efforts to attack the Sangh will only backfire.

“They can’t defeat the BJP on their own. May be they will gain a bit by coming together. As far as Sangh is concerned...  when there are increased protests against the Sangh, it grows.

“Sangh does not grow at someone’s mercy but because of the hard work and capability of its workers,” he said.

Sharma took on Nitish calling him a “kathputhli (puppet) Chief Minister” and said that the real “remote-control” of his government was in the hands of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.

Asked if Nitish Kumar was being pitted against Rahul Gandhi in leading an alternative coalition against BJP-led NDA, Congress spokesman Ahmed said, “There is no fight amongst us. We are all together. But before we get together (for a broader alliance), the people of the country will get together to oust Modiji.

“Time and things keep changing. Lohiaji was against Congress, but Congress and Lohia’s followers are today together in an alliance. There is paradigm shift,” he said.

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First Published : 17 Apr 2016, 09:35:00 PM