Sparring between BJP and Congress on Monday intensified over Markandey Katju's controversial remarks against Narendra Modi and subsequently Arun Jaitley, as the opposition party demanded dismissal of the Press Council chairman.
Rejecting the BJP's demand, AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh jumped to Katju's defence, saying he had always been impartial and wondered whether Jaitley was reacting in this manner because he "owed" his Rajya Sabha seat to Gujarat chief minister Modi.
'Katju crossing red lines'
Upping the ante against the PCI chief, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha accused Katju of "crossing the red lines repeatedly" and not using the language befitting a former judge.
"Katju has been crossing the red lines repeatedly through his various press statements. What kind of judge Katju was I don't know but I am convinced he does not deserve to be the chairman of an important body like the Press Council of India.
"He should be dismissed immediately. There is no point in asking for his resignation. Secondly, he has no business interfering in politics. Press Council chairman is not going to determine who is going to be the Prime Minister of this country," Sinha said.
Katju and Jaitley had on Sunday engaged in a spat over the former's article in newspaper which criticised Modi.
"This is not the part of his jurisdiction. What he has done is that he has confused his personal opinion, with that of the PCI chairman, therefore he does not deserve to hold the office of the PCI chairman," Sinha said wondering "what does he mean by writing the most objectionable article against Narendra Modi."
'Jaitley should quit politics'
Under attack from BJP, Press Council chief Markandey Katju today accused opposition leader Arun Jaitley of making "reckless" allegations by twisting facts and said he should take "sanyas" from politics.
Sticking to his remarks on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi which had drawn him Jaitley's ire, Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said, "Mr Arun Jaitley has demanded my resignation, I demand Mr Arun Jaitley's resignation."
"He has made reckless remarks against me, called me a megalomaniac and all kinds of most derogatory language he has used. It was most unbefitting of a person who claims to be of his stature. So, infact, he should resign and take 'sanyas' (retirement). He is not fit to be in politics," he told reporters in New Delhi after the BJP demanded his sacking for his "political" remarks.
Rejecting Jaitley's charge that he was biased against non-Congress governments, the PCI chief said, "The way a person who twists facts, who accuses me of only commenting against non-Congress governments when the fact is that I've also commented against Congress governments."
Responding to BJP's criticism on post-retirement jobs for judges, Katju said that the BJP leader was forgetting that when the NDA government was in power and he was the law minister, a number of appointments of retired judges to various posts had taken place.
"So what nonsense is Arun Jaitley talking? His own government made so many such appointments. At that time why did Mr Arun Jaitley not object to these appointments being made by NDA government," he said.
The PCI chief said that if Jaitley felt so strongly against post retirement appointments, then "he should have said that BJP is doing something wrong and I am resigning".
Digvijaya slams Jaitley
Digvijaya Singh, however, dismissed Jaitley's stringent criticism of Katju asking, "Is it because he owes his Rajya Sabha seat to Mr Narendra Modi, that Mr Arun Jaitley feels that he should defend Mr Narendra Modi? I think Mr Arun Jaitley should not comment like this, it is unbecoming of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha."
Slamming Jaitley for his "venomous" attack on the PCI chairman, Digvijaya Singh said that Katju had always been impartial and at the same time very sensitive to the people's cause.
"Why did Mr Arun Jaitley keep quiet when he brought out the issues against the chief minister of Maharashtra, against the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, against the Home ministry in the arrest of Iftekhar Gilani.
"When he sort of publicly rebutted the police in the case of gangrape in Delhi. He kept quiet on those occasions," the Congress leader added.
Digvijaya also asked if the incident reflected BJP's reluctance to take criticism to which he said that "the fact is that they are a fascist ideology who can't take criticism ....who believe in either you are my way or the highway."
Yashwant Sinha, however, said that he found Katju using words like "non-sense" and "rubbish" against Jaitley, something unbecoming of a judge.
'Astonished at Jaitley's outburst'
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi trashed Jaitley's comment that Katju was "more Congress than Congress" questioning whether everybody who has criticised Modi was a Congress plant.
"I am astonished at the outburst (of Jaitley). Over the last eleven years, people of all colours, parties, persuasions
and views have at different times criticised and even condemned Modi. Does it mean all of them are Congressmen?
"Anybody who criticised Modi becomes a Congress plant. In that case, thousands of people of the country - unconnected with politics, connected with politics, whosoever has done so must be treated as a Congress member," Singhvi said.
Paswan backs Katju
Lok Janashakti Party also backed Katju saying that be it Gujarat or Bihar, NDA governments are "playing the game of statistics and manipulation" in the name of development and criticised Jaitley for his "unjustified" anger.
"Jaitley should talk after due consideration. Katju speaks on the basis of facts. BJP is attacking PCI Chairman unnecessarily. In similar manner, the NDA government in Bihar has gagged the media.... We support Katju on whatever he has said over the situation in Gujarat now and Bihar in past," party chief Ram Vilas Paswan said.
A three-member team constituted by Katju over the media situation in Bihar last year had said that the media in Nitish Kumar-ruled Bihar is facing some sort of censorship and not being able to function freely. Katju has invited sharp criticism from some quarters even then.
Alvi defends Katju
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said whatever observations Justice Katju had made were his own observations.
"He is working as an independent person as chairman of the Press Council of India and he is a man of reputation. The BJP is in the habit of making baseless allegations," Alvi said.