Congress leader Shashi Tharoor sparked off a controversy with his statement that if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is voted to power again, it will rewrite the Constitution that will eventually create a “Hindu Pakistan.”
The BJP demanded an apology from Mr. Tharoor and called his statement “an attack on Indian democracy and Hindus”, while the Congress distanced itself and advised its leaders on “responsible phraseology.”
At an event in Thiruvanthapuram on Wednesday, Mr Tharoor is reported to have said, “If they are able to win a repeat of their current strength in the Lok Sabha then, frankly, our own democratic Constitution, as we understand [it], will not survive... because then they will have all the three elements they need to tear up the Constitution of India and write a new one.”
“And that will enshrine the principle of Hindu Rashtra, that will remove equality for the minorities, and that will create a Hindu Pakistan...and that is not what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and great heroes of freedom struggle fought for,” he added.
The BJP used strong language to hit back at him.
“Shashi Tharoor is the same person who called Indians ‘cattle-class’. He is ‘cattle-class-ing’ the Indian democracy. You call yourself an educated and erudite spokesperson of the Congress. If you want to love Pakistan, do so, but do not display such hatred towards Indians,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters at a briefing.
“Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the Indian Army is killings civilians, not terrorists. He did it because he just wanted to castigate the Narendra Modi government. Mani Shankar Aiyyar went to Pakistan and said the Modi government needed to be toppled. Saifuddin Soz said Kashmiris want ‘azaadi’. The Congress party is failing. This is not healthy politics, Rahul Gandhi. If you want to say something or question us, do it democratically,” he added.
Mr. Tharoor defended himself in a Facebook post to argue that the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) idea of a “Hindu Rashtra” was the “mirror image” of Pakistan.
Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala, however, articulated the party’s position in a series of tweets. “India’s values & fundamentals are an unequivocal guarantee of our civilisational role & set us apart from the divisive idea of Pakistan. All Congress leaders must realise this historic responsibility bestowed upon us while choosing words & phraseology to reject BJP’s hatred,” he said.
“Modi Govt thrives upon an unprecedented atmosphere of division, bigotry, hatred, intolerance & polarisation for last 4 years. Congress, on the other hand, represents India’s civilisational values of pluralism, diversity, compassion & harmony between faiths & ethnicities,” added Mr. Surjewala.
Speech in Thiruvanthapuram
At an event in Thiruvanthapuram on Wednesday, Mr. Tharoor said: “If they have been able to win a repeat of their current strength in the Lok Sabha, then frankly, our own democratic Constitution, as we understand, will not survive... because then they will have all the three elements they need to tear up the Constitution of India and write a new one.
“And that will enshrine the principle of Hindu Rashtra, that will remove equality for the minorities, and that will create a Hindu Pakistan...and that is not what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and great heroes of freedom struggle fought for.”
I will say it again: Tharoor
Mr. Tharoor defended his comment, insisting that the BJP and RSS’ idea of a 'Hindu Rashtra' was the “mirror image” of Pakistan.
“I have said this before and I will say it again. Pakistan was created as a state with a dominant religion, that discriminates against its minorities and denies them equal rights. India never accepted the logic that had partitioned the country.
“But the BJP/RSS idea of a 'Hindu Rashtra' is the mirror image of Pakistan a state with a dominant majority religion that seeks to put its minorities in a subordinate place. That would be a Hindu Pakistan, and it is not what our freedom movement fought for, nor the idea of India enshrined in our Constitution.”
Mr. Tharoor said many proud Hindus like him cherished the inclusive nature of the faith and had no desire to live, as their Pakistani neighbours were forced to, in an intolerant theocratic state.
“We want to preserve India and not turn our beloved country into a Hindu version of Pakistan,” he wrote.
BJP spokesman Sambit Patra calls Pak. “terroristan”
Mr. Patra said it was an insult to compare India’s democracy to that of Pakistan, which he called “terroristan”, and demanded that the Congress stop “fear-mongering.”
“And you [Shashi Tharoor] compare our democracy to Pakistan’s? Thanks to the Congress party, we have had black patches in our history, such as the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi during which the Constitution was suspended for two years,” he said.
Mr. Tharoor got some support from former Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
“I have not read what he [Tharoor] has said. But he is an educated man, a writer, an MP...and heads Parliament’s committee on external affairs. Whatever he says, he will say after thorough consideration,” Mr. Ansari told a TV news channel.