The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday took Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi head on, saying he was ill-informed about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Rahul, in an interview broadcast on Monday night, had said the difference between the 1984 riots and the 2002 riots in Gujarat was that in the former, the government was trying to stop the violence while in Gujarat, the government was abetting and pushing the riots.
“Rahul Gandhi is ill-informed. In 1984, police hardly fired at the rioters, it was in collusion with the government. In Gujarat, 300 rioters died in police firing. Around 65,000 rioters were arrested in Gujarat... more than 4,000 cases have been chargesheeted and hundreds have been convicted," BJP leader Arun Jaitley said.
“Even the chief minister (Narendra Modi) has gone through enquiries. What did they (Congress) do in 1984," Jaitley questioned. "Which Congressman has ended in jail because of 1984? The call for 'khoon ka badla khoon' (an eye for an eye) was heard in AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) first," he said.
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Then prime minister Indira Gandhi was taken to AIIMS after being shot by her Sikh bodyguards.
Asked about Rahul’s refusal to apologise, Jaitley said: "We are not expecting him to go that far. We are just expecting him to have correct lessons of history."
Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, meanwhile, said Rahul Gandhi knew the Congress would be defeated in the Lok Sabha polls a few months from now and was shying away from a debate with the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi.
"Rahul recognises certain defeat stares at his face (sic)," Prasad said, referring to Rahul Gandhi's TV interview. "He had no answer to the repeated questions on Modi being given a clean chit (for the Gujarat riots). When he was asked why he chose to run away from a direct competition with Modi, he had nothing to say.
"...In contrast to Rahul, you have Modi who was born in poverty, who has come up because of his hard work." Addressing a press meet, Prasad said it was possible only in the BJP that a man like Modi, without any dynastic backing, could be made the prime ministerial candidate.
He said Rahul must publicly express regret for his statement on the 2002 riots. “How can Rahul Gandhi be so irresponsible as to make such wild allegations against Narendra Modi?… We condemn Rahul Gandhi's statement on 2002 riots.”
Prasad said the Congress vice-president had failed to emerge as a leader who could generate some hope.
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