Amid the raging “Bajrang Dal” row, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said his party’s Karnataka polls manifesto did not state that the outfit will be banned but promised “decisive action” under law as a warning to all organisations that indulge in hate-mongering.
Hitting out at the BJP over its criticism, he also questioned the equating of Bajrang Dal with ‘Bajrangbali’, asking how can this “magical transformation” be explained.
In an interview with PTI ahead of the May 10 Karnataka assembly polls, Mr Chidamabram expressed confidence that the people of the state will choose wisely, asserting that the choice is stark as Karnataka could either become a model of a liberal, democratic, plural, tolerant and progressive state or an inward-looking, majoritarian, intolerant and regressive state.
“For the sake of democracy and the future of Karnataka, we must stop the BJP from winning in Karnataka and using the victory to launch forays into the neighbouring states,” he said.
Asked about the BJP promising implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and the introduction of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state, the former home minister said both are issues that have the potential to divide society and trigger social conflict.
“We have the experience of what happened in some northern and north-eastern states. I think the people of Karnataka have absorbed the lessons and will reject these election proposals or promises of the BJP,” Mr Chidambaram told PTI.
Asked about the BJP making the talk of possible action against organisations such as the Bajrang Dal in the Congress manifesto a poll issue and whether it would impact the elections, Mr Chidambaram said the Congress’ manifesto did not say that “we will ban the Bajrang Dal”.
“Please read the two sentences again. There is a reference to two organisations that use extreme language and indulge in extreme actions. The Congress warned all organisations that indulge in hate-mongering,” Chidambaram said.
“The Congress promised ‘decisive action’ under law. Besides, under the law, banning an organisation is a judicial process. I have wondered how Bajrang Dal became Bajrangbali! Can you please explain the magical transformation?” the former home minister said.
The Congress, in its election manifesto for the Karnataka polls, said it is committed to take firm and decisive action against individuals and organisations spreading hatred amongst communities on grounds of caste or religion.
“We believe that law and Constitution are sacrosanct and cannot be violated by individuals and organisations like Bajrang Dal, PFI or others promoting enmity or hatred, whether among majority or minority communities. We will take decisive action as per law, including imposing a ban on any such organisations,” the party has said in its manifesto.
Mr Chidambaram, who is a star campaigner of the Congress for the polls, said he can sense the desire for change in the state.
“Since I am not a resident of Karnataka, I am unable to make a micro-analysis and predict the number of seats that the Congress is likely to win. My senior colleagues in the KPCC (Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee) are confident that the Congress will get a clear majority of the seats,” he said when asked about the number of seats the Congress is expected to win.
Asked about Prime Minister Modi raising the issue of abuses hurled at him, Mr Chidambaram said, “What is ‘abuse’ is a matter of perception. Robust political language in an election is not abuse.” “Besides, shall we play tit-for-tat and count the abuses hurled by BJP leaders against Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Rahul Gandhi? This is a pointless exercise,” he said.
On reports of former chief minister Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakaumar attempting to outdo each other for the post of CM, Chidambaram said both are senior and responsible leaders of the Congress.
“The media is encouraged by the powers-that-be to sow dissensions in the Congress. I am afraid both the BJP and a section of the media will be disappointed!” he added.
On the message that will be sent out through the Karnataka polls, Mr Chidambaram said, “We believe that a positive result for the Congress in the Karnataka election will herald the arrest of the slide of the nation into majoritarianism, bigotry, illiberalism, crony capitalism and indifferent economic growth.”
“There is a clear and present danger. Sooner the nation wakes up to the danger, the better it will be for the country and the future of the people,” the senior Congress leader said.
The elections for the 224-member Karnataka assembly will be held on May 10 and the counting of votes would take place on May 13.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)