New Delhi: The war of words between the Congress and the BJP escalated on Monday with the former accusing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of communally polarising India. As the Congress launched a counter-offensive against Modi, BJP charged it with lowering the level of political discourse by evading issues of good governance, development and corruption and asked the ruling party to shun its "Modi-phobia".
A section within the BJP also feels that Modi is walking into a trap set by the Congress which is trying to change the political narrative from its own failures before the elections. They say instead of targeting the UPA government on issues of corruption and inflation the spokespersons have to counter attack on Narendra Modi's remarks.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha warned that Modi's controversial statements will shift focus from corruption. He said that the more Modi speaks the attention gets diverted from Congress's misgovernance.
"The Modi baiters have a clear game plan. The more he speaks. The more controversy he will create. The attention will shift from misgovernance and corruption to what happened more than 11 years ago in Gujarat. It will be a grave mistake to allow Congress change the agenda and force debate on its own terms," Sinha said.
In a sharp rebuttal to Congress Communication Department Chief Ajay Maken's attack on Modi, BJP also said the Congress leader was short on content and high on enthusiasm.
Earlier in the day, responding to Modi's 'burqa' remark, Congress leader Maken said, "The burqa of secularism is better than the nakedness of communalism. Secularism unites the nation, communalism breaks the country."
Maken also hit out at Modi for criticising the Congress over the Commonwealth Games. Questioning Gujarat's contribution to sports, Maken said, "Narendra Modi says that our Olympics performance could have been much better. I would ask Modi how many youngsters have qualified from Gujarat for the Olympics."
Slamming Modi over education in Gujarat, Maken said, "In 2011-2012, the expenditure on education by Gujarat is on the 14th place in the list. Why is Gujarat after 13 states? In Gujarat, only 4 degree and engineering colleges have regular principals. There are a lot of teacher vacancies, which are not being filled in Gujarat. When posts of principals are empty in schools and colleges in Gujarat, how is Mr Modi making these claims about education?"
Another Congress leader and Union Minister Shashi Tharoor too accused the Gujarat Chief Minister of making veiled attack on Muslims. Asserting that India is a nation of diversity, Tharoor said the Congress leadership at the time of Independence didn't want India to be a nation of one religion but Modi's statements in the last few days showed that he wanted to target just one community.
Modi also faced flak from former ally, JD(U) which cited his recent comments as validating its decision to break ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party and leave the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
In the last few days Modi has been facing severe criticism over his 'puppy' remark over the 2002 Gujarat riots, 'Hindu nationalist' and 'burqa of secularism' comments.
Modi had on Sunday said the government hides behind the veil of secularism whenever India faces any problem. "Congress always wears the burqa of secularism whenever they face problem. In the name of secularism, Congress government can't play with poor, teenagers and daughters of the country," Modi had said.
Taking a dig at UPA government's ambitious food security programme, Modi had on Sunday said India's priority is skill development and merely bringing in the Bill would not feed the needy. The government's decision to rush through an ordinance to put into effect its ambitious food security scheme was also slammed by Modi. "Congress decided to bring in an ordinance because it does not trust its allies anymore. It's all a fight for credit and deprives their partners of the credit" he quipped.
"Instead of distributing the grains to the poor, the government let it rot and later gave the rotting grains to liquor manufacturers despite SC orders," Modi added.
Modi also said the scam-tainted CWG games "destroyed national honour in the eyes of the world". "Two countries hosted two games...South Korea hosted Olympics and India the Commonwealth Games. While Korea brought honour to itself through the Olympics, our nation of 120 crore people lost its honour in the eyes of the world," Modi said addressing students and faculty at the Fergusson College in Pune on Sunday.