The Harish Rawat-led state government’s decision to grant special 90-minute break to government employees from the Muslim community for Friday prayers snowballed into a major controversy on Monday forcing the government to go on the back foot.
Targeted from all quarters for playing “divisive” politics, the chief minister chief minister’s media advisor Surendra Kumar on Monday afternoon issued a clarification saying the similar special breaks would be available to employees of all religions and class on special request.
“It has been decided by the state government that employees of all religions, castes and classes will be granted special temporary leaves on their request during festivals, pujas (veneration) and other special religious occasions, if they demand for the same,” said Kumar.
Earlier the chief minister had rebuffed the opposition for targeting his government and said the Congress was committed to the welfare of the minority community.
“Congress governments have the culture of honouring all religions…Welfare of minorities is also the responsibilities of respective governments and Congress will work hundred per cent for their welfare and not for appeasement, as is being stated by the opposition. (The) BJP must also take a peep into one of its chief minister’s similar decision in the past,” he had said on Monday morning, while refusing to roll back the decision.
Meanwhile, the BJP targeted the state government and called its decision “strange” and “unprecedented.” They claimed the new method of minority appeasement would take the state towards divisive politics.
“The Harish Rawat government has started a dangerous game of politics that will usher in an era of divisive politics in Uttarakhand. It will tear the peace and tranquility of Devbhumi Uttarakhand. What wrong have the Hindus done that they were kept away from the decision in the first place,” said senior BJP leader and party’s national executive member Satpal Maharaj.
BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma also told reporters in Delhi that the Congress has a history of “dividing” people on communal lines in its greed for power. “What it has done in Uttarakhand is an attempt to hide the Harish Rawat government’s failures,” he said.
“There is no issue with people of different faiths offering prayers of their choice. But this decision will set a wrong precedent on the matter of principle. From Monday to Saturday, faithfuls in our culture worship different Gods and offer prayers. If everybody is to be given a favour like this, then who will work in government offices?”
The Shiv Sena have also criticized the Rawat government’s move and said that they would oppose this in parliament.
“This is an absolutely wrong move. Today one state is coming with such a thing, tomorrow other states will follow and this is a complete appeasement policy towards Muslim which the Congress has been doing from the last sixty years,” said Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande.
Earlier, state Congress president Kishore Upadhyaya said those opposing and calling it an election stunt should introspect first. (With agency inputs)