Countrywide protests planned on January 24 against Shinde’s remark

A day after Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of promoting “Hindu terrorism,” the BJP has demanded an apology from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who is set to be renominated for a second term, accused the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance of insulting the Hindu society. “The Prime Minister and Soniaji should apologise,” he said at the ‘Atal shankhnad’ rally at the Jhulelal Park in Lucknow on Monday.

The BJP president announced that protest demonstrations would be held all over the country on January 24. Dharnas and rallies would be held and effigies representing the UPA government would be burnt by party workers to register their protest, he said.

Mr. Gadkari said the former Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, had earlier raised the bogey of “saffron terrorism.” Now Mr. Shinde was talking about “Hindu terrorism.”

“Nationalists and patriots have been insulted by the Congress and the UPA,” Mr. Gadkari said. The Congress and the UPA were resorting to “appeasement of terrorism.” Now the mastermind of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, Hafiz Saeed, had welcomed Mr. Shinde’s remark. The UPA government did not have the courage to confront Pakistan, Mr. Gadkari alleged.

The BJP leadership also attacked Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati for their “silent understanding” with the UPA. Mr. Gadkari accused the two of trying to divide the society.

The rally marked the formal merger of Kalyan Singh’s Jan Kranti Party (Rashtravadi) with the BJP, although the veteran leader has not joined the party. Mr. Singh said he would formally join the party at a later date. He would have to quit his Lok Sabha seat if he were to join now.

Signalling his return to the BJP platform after six years, Mr. Singh broke down when he said that “it was his wish that when he died his body should be draped in the party flag.” Speaking as the chief guest, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said the time had come to confront the five “demons” — corruption, anarchy, price rise, unemployment and Muslim appeasement. He, however, hastened to add that he was not against Muslims.

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said Mr. Shinde was trying to divide the country.

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