BJP leaders have love for Pakistan, Advani called Jinnah secular: Bhupesh Baghel

Raebareli, May 10 (PTI) Hitting back at the BJP as a row erupted over Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks, senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel on Friday claimed it is the ruling party’s leaders that have “love for Pakistan” and cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2015 surprise visit to the neighbouring country.

In an interview with PTI here, the former Chhattisgarh chief minister also cited veteran BJP leader L K Advani’s remarks during his 2005 visit to Pakistan, terming that country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah “secular”.

Asked about Aiyar’s remarks on Pakistan and the BJP’s allegation that it reflected the Congress’ love for that country, Baghel said, “If we talk of 1948 or 1965 or 1971 be it the time of (Jawaharlal) Nehru, (Lal Bahadur) Shastri ji or Indira (Gandhi) ji… in Indira ji’s time Pakistan was broken into two, so we cannot have Pakistan prem.”

“It is the leaders of the BJP that have Pakistan prem. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister he took a bus to Lahore, then deputy PM L K Advani went to the mazar of Jinnah and hailed him as secular,” Baghel said.

“No PM has ever called a Pakistan prime minister or president for their swearing-in ceremony. Modi ji is the first PM to do so and without an invitation, he went to Pakistan to have biryani,” the Congress leader said, referring to Modi’s impromptu visit to Pakistan in 2015.

The BJP’s love for Pakistan is apparent, he claimed, adding all this is registered in the pages of history.

“When did Mani Shankar Aiyar ji say this? I saw the video, he is wearing a sweater, it is an old video. If they are bringing up old things, then all these issues that I pointed out are also there,” Baghel said.

Aiyar’s remarks on Pakistan sparked a row on Friday, with his party quick to dissociate itself from the comments while the BJP latched on to those, accusing the grand old party of being an apologist for Pakistan and the terrorism emanating from its soil.

Aiyar said the video was old and dredged up now as the BJP’s election campaign is faltering.

In comments that have gone viral on social media, Aiyar is heard saying that India should give respect to Pakistan as it is a sovereign nation and engage with it as it also possesses an atom bomb.

Responding to a question on how the Congress and INDIA bloc are placed after three phases of the Lok Sabha polls, Baghel claimed that as phases of Lok Sabha polls progressed, BJP leaders’ self-confidence has been shaken and in their statements, they continue to lower the discourse.

“It has become clear in the polls that for the BJP ‘Dakshin mein saaf, Uttar Bharat mein half’,” he claimed.

Asked about the BJP leaders’ Ram temple pitch during the polls and PM Modi’s recent remarks claiming the Congress will reverse the Supreme Court verdict on Ram temple if voted to power, Baghel said the temple has been built and the consecration ceremony has also taken place. The matter is over, he said.

“But the PM and BJP leaders are now saying that they need 400 seats so that a mosque is not built there. Rajiv Gandhi had said the court’s decision would be final. He had said that on record and the Congress party’s stand has been that throughout, and it never budged from the stand that the court’s decision is final.”

“When the Supreme Court’s verdict has come, then making such remarks shows that the BJP has no issue now. How much will they lie and try to mislead people?” the former Chhattisgarh chief minister asked.

His remarks come after Prime Minister Modi claimed the Congress will reverse the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram temple if voted to power just like the top court’s landmark 1985 ruling in the Shah Bano case was overturned by the Rajiv Gandhi government as part of the party’s appeasement politics.

On Prime Minister Modi’s attacks at the Congress, including on the issue of ‘wealth redistribution’, Baghel said when the Congress’ Nyay Patra was unveiled, Modi started claiming that the Muslim League agenda had been included in it.

“Then he talked about mutton-fish and then mangalsutra. These things are nowhere there in the Congress manifesto. I would say that in a way, the PM propagated our manifesto.

“As soon as he said Muslim League, people checked it up and it was found nowhere. The same thing happened when he talked of mangalsutra and people found that it was mentioned nowhere. It became clear that the prime minister was lying,” he said.

The former Chhattisgarh chief minister said the prime minister should not take the discourse to such levels and “lie” like this.

“He does not have anything to say. Everyone in the country knows what is there in the Congress’ Nyay Patra — Nari Nyay, Yuva Nyay, Shramik Nyay, Hissedari Nyay, Kisaan Nyay. People know about those but no one knows what is there in the BJP manifesto. Even their candidates will not be able to tell what is there in the manifesto,” Baghel said.

Asked how many seats the Congress and the INDIA bloc will get, he said it is difficult to forecast the number of seats but it is sure that the BJP-led NDA is on its way out and the opposition alliance is coming to power.

He also exuded confidence that the Congress would do very well in his home state Chhattisgarh.

Baghel is here as a senior AICC observer for the Raebareli seat and will be holding a series of public outreach programmes as well. He contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Rajnandgaon constituency where polling took place on April 26 in the second phase.

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