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Amit Shah leads BJP attack against Rahul for backing Kanhaiya Kumar

BJP president Amit Shah waded into a raging row over nationalism, attacking Rahul Gandhi for supporting the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2016 00:13 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Amit Shah,BJP mounts attack on Congress,JNU row
BJP president Amit Shah addresses BJYM national convention in Vrindavan.(PTI Photo)

BJP president Amit Shah waded into a raging row over nationalism on Saturday, choosing a youth event to attack Rahul Gandhi for supporting the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University that is now the centre of a bruising political debate over free speech.

Shah’s first reaction to the controversy, sparked by the arrest of the university’s student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges, is seen as an attempt to ratchet up the rhetoric on nationalism ahead of assembly elections in four states starting next month, and in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls early next year.

“A strange atmosphere has been created. Anti-national slogans are being projected as freedom of expression... Congress should be ashamed that its vice-president goes to the campus and says these (slogans) should be heard as there is freedom of expression,” Shah told members of the party’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM).

Taking on Gandhi and Kumar, the BJP president asked if slogans terming terrorists as martyrs “is freedom of expression, then what is sedition?”, and questioned Congress president Sonia Gandhi if she “endorsed” her son’s opinion on the issue.

The face-off between the Congress-led opposition and the ruling NDA alliance over the nationalism row, which dominated Parliament proceedings last week, is expected to extend to campaigning for elections in four states -- Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala -- starting April 4.

The two-day annual convention of BJYM in Vrindaban started in the backdrop of one of its top leaders in Uttar Pradesh announcing a reward of Rs 5 lakh to anyone who cuts off Kumar’s tongue. The BJYM expelled the leader Kuldeep Varshnay.

Read | Will bury Jinnahs if they are born in varsities: Yogi Adityanath on JNU row

Almost simultaneously, posters appeared in Delhi in the name of a little-known organisation offering Rs 11 lakh to anyone who kills the JNU student leader, who is accused of being present at an event on the campus where anti-Indian slogan were allegedly shouted. Kumar denies this.

Speaking at the BJYM meet, Union minister VK Singh also targeted Kanhaiya Kumar for calling Rohith Vemula his inspiration, alleging that the Dalit scholar had organised a meeting in support of the 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.

“I read in newspapers today (Saturday) that a JNU student leader says that he does not draw inspiration from Afzal Guru but Rohith Vemula. I told myself that Rohith Vemula too had organised a meeting for Yakub Memon. Are we with those people who encourage terrorism and who abuse India?” he said.

Without naming Gandhi, HRD minister Smriti Irani also attacked him saying he goes around claiming to be a youth leader while being close to 50 years of age.

Another Union minister, Mahesh Sharma, said the JNU incident had tarnished the country’s image and affected the tourism industry.

Read | Left has a new comrade, but can Kanhaiya Kumar win votes

First Published: Mar 05, 2016 23:59 IST