The “anti-national” slogans that were allegedly raised in the precincts of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in February, cast their shadow on the proceedings of the BJP’s nation executive meeting that began on Saturday.
Unwilling to put the issue to rest, the BJP, lashed out at the Congress and the Left parties for extending support to the students, and for justifying the slogans as ‘freedom of expression’ and cautioned that “criticism of the nation will not be tolerated.”
The BJP, which is gearing for polls in four states and one union territory, was acerbic in its criticism of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for visiting the campus to express solidarity with the students protesting against the arrest of JNU students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar.
“Rahul Gandhi visited the campus and did not say anything about the anti-national slogans, but tried to justify them as freedom of expression,” Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, quoting party president Amit Shah’s address at the meeting.
Prasad said Shah emphasized that the BJP will welcome any criticism of its “leader, party and the government”, but not of the nation.
Shah, who has been elected party president for a three-year term in January, underlined that the BJP’s commitment to freedom of expression cannot be questioned by the Congress that had imposed the Emergency on the country and the Left parties that idolise leaders such as Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.
While the opposition has dubbed the BJP as anti-Dalit, especially in the wake of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad Central University, the party has been whipping the issue of Congress and Left parties extending support to “anti-national” activities gaining ground in universities.
“My own view is that have the CPI (M), CPI and the Congress leaders at senior levels castigated such slogans? …And these parties are questioning our commitment to freedom of expression,” Prasad said.
Following up on the direction given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day to disseminate information about government schemes; Shah also instructed the cadres to relay the information about people-friendly schemes to the electorate.
Addressing the party workers at the BJP office bearer’s meet Modi said asked them to work with an open mind to take the party forward and to use social media as much as possible to market the government’s schemes.
Post the electoral debacle in Delhi and Bihar and the deadlock in Jammu and Kashmir over government formation, the BJP is redoubling its efforts to make gains in the forthcoming assembly polls in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Pudducherry.
The two-day meeting, second such since the BJP came to power, is expected to draw up a road map for the forthcoming elections and on how to present the government’s achievements vis-à-vis meeting the demand for One Rank, One pay, farmer friendly policies and budget. Workers have also been instructed to flag the “obstructionist” role of the Congress for blocking the GST Bill and other legislation.
A target has also been set for the BJP leaders to ensure that the 11 crore members of the party are converted into “active members” by organising at least six booth level party programmes.