Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's 'burqa (veil) of secularism' remark targeting the Congress on Monday drew a stinging response from the ruling party which said it was much better than 'naked communalism'.
The Congress also sought to puncture the claim of BJP's election campaign chief on the issue of development in Gujarat, saying the state during Modi's tenure lagged behind on several development indicators.
"We will have to respond if the chairman of the campaign committee of the BJP resorts to disinformation campaign and makes factually incorrect statements," AICC general secetary Ajay Maken said, a day after Modi came down heavily on the Congress and the central government on various issues including the state of economy, development and corruption.
"The burqa of secularism is much better than naked communalism. While communalism divides, securalism binds," Maken said.
Modi had on Sunday charged Congress with wearing the "burqa (veil) of secularism" and "hiding in a bunker" each time it is confronted with a crisis.
Accusing Modi of presenting 'erroenous' and 'false' figures, Maken said that a person, who has "not been able to serve his own people properly" and "failed" in his own state has no business telling the whole country what to do.
Drawing parallels from the achievements in Gujarat during Modi's tenure and the NDA rule at the Centre, Maken said the performance of the UPA was much better in all fields including GDP growth, tourism and education.
"I want to ask him what did he do in Gujarat that he keeps touring the whole country trying to give lessons to youths," he said, adding that only a handful from Gujarat won medals in Olympic and very tourists visited the state in ten years since Modi was chief minister.
Highlights of Ajay Maken's press conference
# Modi was Gujarat CM for over 10 years, what did he do for sports in Gujarat? questions Ajay Maken
# Modi says that our Olympics performance could have been much better, but in the Jharkhand games, Gujarat got zero medals
# Of the over 1000 gold medals in the National Games, Gujarat had 7. Even Chandigarh won 10 gold medals
# Narendra Modi should keep in mind the the performance of the NDA government and also his own tenure in Gujarat
# In 2011-12, in Gujarat, only 13.9% was spent on education and the state was ranked 14th in India
# We had only 7 IITs earlier while now we have 16 IITs; there were only 6 IIMs earlier, now there are 13
# Ajay Maken: How is Modi making claims about education when posts of principals are empty in schools and colleges in Gujarat?
# Drop out rates in Gujarat schools are 57%, far above the national average
# Only 4 degree and engineering colleges have regular principals in Gujarat
# Gujarat ranks 18th in India on gender gap in literacy rates, far below the national average
# The burqa of secularism is better than the nakedness of communalism
# Maken: Gujarat is on the 10th place in domestic tourism. Contributes only 2.5% of the total tourism. Why is Modi advising others on tourism?
# Modi should first improve his performance in the state of Gujarat and then talk of national level improvements
# We need to respond to incorrect facts being stated. We would like our success story to be known to the entire country
# There has been poverty reduction of 2% each year. We have 44 central universities now as compared to 17 earlier
Congress leader and Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari has also attacked Modi and said the choice before people was an inclusive India or an India which is sectarian.
"The cloak of secularism is all pervasive. It envelopes Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains - people of all faiths. While the veils of communalism are extremely sectarian. They believe, in their language people whom they qualify as 'kutte ka bachcha', which you (media) translated as puppies, should be crushed under the wheels of communalism," he told reporters here.
Read more: Narendra Modi talks 2002, kicks up storm with 'puppy' remark
Tewari said, "This polarisation is not about Hindus versus Muslims, it is not about those who are the sufferers of a pogrom and those who inflicted the pogrom. It is about the basic idea of India, what kind of India we want to see".
"An India where people of all faiths, all religions, all dispensations, all inclinations have the right to progress in peace or an India which is sectarian in character, where some people believe that if you are not with us, you are against us and if you are against us, you deserve to be crushed under the wheels of communalism. I think that is the question we need to answer," he said.
The Congress leader said that the country had to choose between an inclusive vision and one that was sectarian and majoritarian.
"I think we are again back to basics, the fundamental clash of visions. The vision of the Congress party is pluralistic and inclusive. And the vision of the section of the opposition has been sectarian, majoritarian and communal right from the beginning," he said.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh also hit back at Modi over his 'burqa (veil) of secularism' comment.
Read more: Congress hiding behind burqa of secularism, says Modi
"I want to know what is the definition of secularism according to Modiji. One religion, one culture, one nation is the definition of secularism according to the RSS and Advaniji. Modiji should clarify what is his definition of secularism," Singh told media in New Delhi.
Referring to allegations by Modi about the way Commonwealth Games were organised, Singh said that the conduct of games was lauded internationally.
Minister of state for human resource development Shashi Tharoor has also slammed Modi for his 'secular' remark.
Tharoor tweeted: "Modi says we "hide behind the burqa of secularism". Preferable, surely, to the khaki shorts of intolerance & hatred that he now tries to hide?"
On Modi's remarks relating to food security bill, Singh said that the central government was providing a food subsidy of Rs 1,25,000 crores and had left selection of beneficiaries to the states.
Modi on Sunday charged Congress with wearing the "burqa (veil) of secularism" and "hiding in a bunker" each time it is confronted with a crisis.
Read more: I'm a Hindu nationalist, patriotic: Narendra Modi
Addressing a public meeting in Pune, Modi also attacked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the issue of his party's "failure" to eradicate poverty and alleged that it was raising the bogey of "threat to secularism" to throttle people's aspirations.
Read more: Govt in Delhi thinks just by bringing in food bill, there will be food on your plate, says Modi
Modi also blamed the Congress for the deteriorating the economic condition of the country, and specifically targetted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a great economist, for failing to prevent the free fall of the rupee.
(With inputs from HT, PTI, ANI)