RSS, BJP say they disagree with his views

The Congress launched a full-scale verbal attack against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Thursday, protesting against the former sangh chief, K. Sudershan's provocative allegations against Congress president Sonia Gandhi. From MPs who stormed the well of Parliament, to senior functionaries, Union ministers and even Chief Ministers, the Congress hit back in an unending stream through the day, putting not just the RSS, but also the BJP, on the mat, asking both organisations to state whether they were in agreement with Mr. Sudershan.

As a result, the RSS and the BJP were both forced to distance themselves from Mr. Sudershan's intemperate remarks. Manmohan Vaidya of the RSS issued a two-line statement saying his organisation never discussed the issue and that it disagreed entirely with their former sarsanghchalak's views. The BJP, too, said it did not concur with the line taken by Mr. Sudershan.

Ruckus in Parliament

If the morning saw party MPs, especially those belonging to the youth brigade, storming the well of Parliament, raising slogans against the BJP and the RSS, the evening saw an emotionally charged diatribe by Congress media chairperson Janaradan Dwivedi against the two saffron outfits at a specially convened press conference at the AICC headquarters. His voice cracking at points, Mr. Dwivedi, flanked by party spokespersons Shakeel Ahmed and Manish Tewari and AICC media secretary Tom Vadakkan, asked: “How can we tolerate such baseless allegations.”

Mr. Dwivedi, indeed, listed the “allegations” in great detail, including Mr. Sudershan's accusation that Ms. Gandhi was “responsible for the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi” and that she was “a CIA agent” — remarks that have appeared apparently only in one mass circulation Hindi newspaper. Having mentioned them, he said he would not be surprised if these remarks did not provoke countrywide protests and violence by Congress activists. Urging party workers to keep calm, Mr. Dwivedi added that the remarks made by Mr. Sudershan were so unspeakable that Congress workers would be justified in holding public protests. “The Congress,” he said, “has rightly warned the country periodically about this organisation.”

“Simple living”

Describing the simple lives that the Gandhis lived, he recalled that when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, and Rajiv Gandhi lived with his mother, the latter lived entirely off his salary (as an Indian Airlines pilot) and that he would often be sighted riding a motorcycle with Sonia Gandhi riding pillion.

The content of Mr. Dwivedi's emotional outburst, however, came in for some mild comment in the Congress, with party sources telling The Hindu that while it was important to “nail the falsehoods of the RSS,” it was also important to point out that such intemperate comments by the RSS against Ms. Gandhi, who is the “heart and soul of the Congress” was because the link between acts of terror and the RSS had been established by the police. “Mr. Sudershan's uncalled for, unsubstantiated attack was merely to divert attention from their own crimes,” these sources stressed.

Sharp reactions

Meanwhile, other senior leaders too reacted sharply. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh stressed Ms. Gandhi had been “an ideal wife, daughter-in-law and mother,” and that “to say such things against a person who has declined to accept the Prime Minister's post is totally condemnable.”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal said the kind of allegations Mr. Sudershan made “can't be repeated.” The BJP, which draws its inspiration from the RSS, should apologise.” And Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Shukla said that If Mr. Sudershan did not apologise to the nation, “criminal proceedings will be initiated against him for his derogatory remarks.”