The battle between the secular-communal ideology is beginning to sharpen ahead of the assembly elections to five states, including Uttar Pradesh, with the Congress alleging that the decisions of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s national executive (NE) once again showed that the main Opposition party believed in propagating the "politics of hatred and divisiveness."
The first test of this face-off would be in UP where the BJP's bid to polarise the atmosphere is likely to serve Samajwadi Party's objective by trying to ensure that the Muslim vote remains with Mulayam Singh Yadav and does not shift to the Bahujan Samaj Party or to Sonia Gandhi's party which is struggling to revive itself in the state.
At present, the Congress is reportedly finding it difficult to find candidates for the 370-380 (out of 403) assembly seats it wants to contest. But it hopes to exploit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's promise of a "fair share" for Muslims and his emphasis on a modern leadership and development for UP to whittle at Mulayam's Muslim base and counter the BJP.
It has pegged its faith on Sonia Gandhi's charisma to galvanise the cadres and voters and Rahul Gandhi's meticulous planning for the polls to defeat the BJP's game-plan to polarise the polity. But the party promptly shot down RJD Lalu Yadav's suggestion to project Rahul as chief minister. "Rahul is the future leader of the Congress and the country," said spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
While reacting to the BJP's conclave, the spokesman lashed out at the saffron outfit, dubbing it as a party of "contradictions, controversies communal colour."
"The BJP stokes communal passions and threatens another partition. It gives lectures on minority appeasement and yet calls upon Muslims to vote for it. It makes pious declarations of tackling criminalisation in politics yet parades Navjot Singh Siddhu who has been convicted.
It harps on Ayodhya but does not explain why it forgot the issue when the NDA was in power for six years at the Centre. Its double-facedness allowed it to have charge-sheeted persons like LK Advani, MM Joshi and others as ministers," alleged Singhvi.
He also took a dig at the BJP leaders who were jostling for the prime ministerial slot. "It is a comedy of musical chairs for a non-existent chair. There is no vacancy for the PM's chair either now or in the foreseeable future," quipped Singhvi.
He noted Advani's desire for the post and AB Vajpayee's week-long silence before giving his "blessings" to his colleague. "But one does not know whether Vajpayee means what he says or says what he means," he quipped, in a bid to widen any divide there is between the two leaders.
As for the "bridegroom" - as BJP chief Rajnath Singh described himself - he stood forlorn without a bride or a baraat, said Singhvi. "All this would have been comical were it not farcical," he added.