NATIONAL

Vajpayee forgets his remarks on minorities: Congress

NEW DELHI, FEB.26. The Congress today took serious exception to what it called the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bid to equate the country's friendship with Pakistan with the BJP's attitude towards Muslims, and charged that during election, Mr. Vajpayee ``forgets his flip-flops'' on the question of minorities.

Reacting to Mr. Vajpayee's speech at a BJP function here on Wednesday, the Congress said: ``Come election time, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, dusts off his mukhota (mask) and begins donning it. Public memory is not so short as to forget his frequent flip-flops on the question of minorities''.

On the Prime Minister wearing a green turban at the meeting, the Congress chief spokesperson, S. Jaipal Reddy, said Mr. Vajpayee had, at a meeting, condemned the green colour and identified it with Muslims.

He claimed that at a public meeting during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2002 Mr. Vajpayee had said that the BJP would win without Muslim votes.

Also one cannot forget the ``sweeping anti-Muslim'' speech he made in Goa, he said.

Despite his ``many anti-minority speeches,'' Mr. Vajpayee's attempt to equate the friendship between New Delhi and Islamabad with the BJP's attitude towards Muslims was ``highly objectionable,'' Mr. Reddy said.

``The people of India — Hindus, Muslims and others — are all for friendship with Pakistan on honourable terms. Muslims in India are on the same wavelength as others on issues relating to Pakistan... We do not know whether it helps anybody's party, but it is clear that it would hurt the country.''

Responding to the status report of the Central Bureau of Investigation on the Bilkis gang rape case, he said it was yet another ``rude reminder to the continuing partial attitude of the Gujarat police.'' The Prime Minister should direct the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, to step down in the wake of the report and the strictures of the Supreme Court on the goings-on in the State.

Doublespeak

A senior Congress leader, Ahmed Patel, today accused Mr. Vajpayee of indulging in ``doublespeak'' and said that his comments were aimed at ``confusing the nation and the minorities.''

He said that after the evidence presented by the Central Bureau of Investigation in Bilkis rape case in Gujarat evoking strictures from the Supreme Court, the Central Government and the Prime Minister should have asked the CBI to probe all cases of communal violence so that the minorities felt there was justice for them, followed by other political actions to correct the situation.