The Congress on Wednesday proclaimed “zero tolerance” of the theories of hate and divisiveness propagated by the Shiv Sena and its breakaway outfit, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
However, the party remained non-committal on when action would be taken against the Sena for issuing threats to actor Shah Rukh Khan — who said Pakistan players should have been picked up for IPL cricket matches — and warning theatre owners against screening his film.
All that Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan was willing to say to repeated questions why the Congress-led government in Maharashtra was not taking action against the Sena and the MNS despite their continued campaign against outsiders was that: “We are confident the Maharashtra government will take action at the appropriate time as per the law.”
At the same time, Congress leaders conceded in private that the Maharashtra government’s track record on this count did not stand scrutiny. Of particular note is the fact that the Congress-led Democratic Front government in the State banned two books by American author James Laine — ‘Shivaji: Hindu King in Muslim India’ and ‘Epic of Shivaji’ — after protests over uncharitable references to the Maratha icon.
Meanwhile, in a suo motu statement on the persistent effort by the Sena and the MNS to fuel their ‘Mumbai for Marathis’ campaign, the Congress described it as a “pernicious attempt” to polarise the country along regional lines.
Reiterating the Congress’ commitment to the “idea of India,” Ms. Natarajan said: “We will strain every nerve to ensure that the unity and integrity of India is not compromised, the Constitution of India is upheld in letter and in spirit, and every citizen has the right to move about freely to live and work in every party of the country.”
Asked if the Sena and its mouthpiece Saamna — which in its latest editorial made some uncharitable remarks about Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi — should be banned, she sidestepped the issue of proscription and said: “We urge the people of India to reject the ideology and politics of hate.”
Describing the campaign against Shah Rukh Khan as part of the culture of violence and hatred perpetuated by the Sena, Ms. Natarajan said “the Congress would peacefully resist it with all the means at our command.”
As for the comment against Mr. Gandhi, the Congress chose to ignore it, maintaining that the party did not want to “dignify such undignified remarks with a response.” This has been the party’s consistent line to personal remarks about the “first family” from most political opponents.