BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Monday appeared to differ with Narendra Modi on the secular-communal divide saying such a discourse would deviate from real issues of economic downturn and corruption for which Congress should be held accountable.
However, he was at pains to explain that he was not offering any advise to the Gujarat chief minister on how he should conduct the campaign.
Sinha's remarks come a day after Modi accused the Congress of hiding behind a 'burqa' of secularism to escape from its failures, remarks that have touched off a raging controversy with Congress and other parties attacking the chief minister.
Sinha said the focus of the debate in the run up to the elections should be on the bad economic situation and other problems confronting the common man for which the Congress government "is responsible" and not on "spurious" communalism versus secularism debate.
"We should bring the debate back to current issues which are basically economic issues. The issue of poverty, the issue of bread and the issue of unemployment. These are the issues which are hurting people. It is not communalism or secularism. These are the issues. So we should bring the debate back to these issues," Sinha told reporters.
In a newspaper article on Monday, Sinha has said that Congress should not be allowed to force a debate on its terms and that the real issues of economic crisis, price rise, misgovernance and corruption should be debated upon.
This was interpreted in political circles as an advice to Modi to not to fall into the Congress "trap".
"The Modi-baiters have a clear game plan. The more he speaks, the more controversy they will create. The pre- election political discourse will, thus, be distorted and attention will shift from the mis-governance and corruption of this government to what happened more than 11 years ago in Gujarat. We must bring the discourse back from the past to the present," Sinha said in his article.
"The secular/communal divide in our polity is the most spurious of all divides. Rabid casteists are masquerading as champions of secularism. The real issues are the bread, onion and salt of the people. The real issue is corruption at every step in which this government has indulged. It will be a grave mistake to allow Congress to change the agenda and force a debate on its terms," the BJP leader wrote.
Terming the current debate on communalism and secularism as "sterile" and "useless", Sinha said he has written to the entire political class not to get into it as no one is benefiting from it and instead focus on the issues and problems of the people.
"The state of the economy in the country is so bad and the nation is in serious crisis. The Rupee is depreciating and the economic growth has fallen. Economic production is going into negative growth and losses are increasing, price is touching 10%.
"All this is bad for the people.... There is no focus of political class on this. The discussion is on useless issues. That is why I said discussion should be on these issues by whosoever who thinks about the future of the nation," the former Finance Minister said.
Questioning the Congress and the government on why they did not speak on the country's economic crisis, he said "because they have nothing to speak on this".
He also charged the Congress-led government with "destroying the nation's economic system" and changing the source of the debate on "useless" issues for using them against BJP.