The BJP on Friday hit back at the Congress for its criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that BJP leaders suffered more after Independence "than what the Congress did under the British", saying he did not intend to undermine the opposition party’s role in the freedom movement.
"The opposition party’s objection to the Prime Minister’s comments is baseless. He did not intend to undermine the Congress role in the freedom movement but only talked about the BJP’s struggle since the time of Jan Sangh," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference at party headquarters here.
"It’s a fact that the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and BJP leaders had to face torture in Kerala, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country in the past and the Sangh was also banned many times," he added.
Prasad said he wanted to know from the Congress if it was not a fact that Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee scarified his life after Independence and another party ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay was killed.
"We accept that the Jan Sangh was not born before Independence. All the workers of the BJP or the earlier Jana Sangh have suffered enormously, be it Kerala, West Bengal or Kashmir. Isn’t it a fact?" Prasad said.
Modi said on Thursday that the Bharatiya Janata Party as a political party faced more adversities in independent India compared with any other political party, and the world knows the party only through what others have said about it.
He said it was on the directions of Mahatma Gandhi that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar were inducted into independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet.
"They were all completely nationalists. The Congress needs to explain why Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel was given the Bharat Ratna after 41 years of his death and that too when Chandrashekhar was the Prime Minister. Even Maulana (Abul Kalam) Azad got the Bharat Ratna in 1992. In fact, they were punished because they had opposed the policies of Nehru," he said.
Taking a dig at the Congress, the BJP leader wondered if the "present day family-centric Congress" represents even an iota of the grand old party of freedom movement.
"A party which still nurtures the nostalgic days of ruling the country for 50 years plus is not able to reconcile to their very weakened political strength. I allow them that indulgence. No problem. They should not make historical mistakes and they should not make mala fide comments," Prasad said.
The Congress on Friday demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his remark, saying Modi has trivialised the freedom struggle.
The Congress also attacked the RSS, saying it "was a non-participant" in India’s freedom struggle and had on critical occasions supported the British government as a "collaborator".
"It does not behove the Prime Minister to lower the dignity of his office by making a statement which is factually incorrect and insult to the freedom fighters, and thousands of others who made manifold sacrifices during India’s national struggle," said senior Congress leader Anand Sharma.