New Delhi: Controversial author Salman Rushdie on Saturday targetted the Congress party, particularly Rahul Gandhi at the India Today Conclave, saying his presence was blocked in the Jaipur Literature Festival due to "useless electoral calculations". He suggested that this "led to the debacle" of Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
Rushdie said "Deobandi bigotry" and "kneeling to mullahs" had not worked for the Congress, alluding to their recent loss in the state elections during which the party was accused was trying to win over Muslims in Uttar Pradesh with inducements of job quotas and other blandishments.
"Now we have a couple of months of perspective. It's pretty clear to see that what happened there was not unpredictable Deobandi bigotry. As it turns out...pretty useless electoral calculations by the Congress party. Didn't even work, Rahul. Didn't even work. Years and years of kneeling down in front of every mullah you could find and it did not even work," he said.
He also said that India "deserves to be led by better leaders than is being now".
The acclaimed writer on Saturday denounced "disgraceful vote bank politics" being practiced in the country and said "95 percent of Muslims in India are not interested in violence being done in their name".
Returning to India two months after he was stopped from attending the Jaipur Literary Festival, Rushdie spoke at the concluding dinner at the two-day India Today Conclave at the Taj Palace Hotel.
The event was marked by tight security presence but devoid of the kind of protests that had marred the Jaipur event by radical Muslim groups protesting his visit.
Rushdie, who was happy at the "lack of interest and protest in my visit" this time around to his land of birth, was, however, severe on politicians of the subcontinent, both in India and Pakistan, who pandered to "religious fanaticism" and indulged in "political opportunism", an allusion to those who cancelled their speaking engagements at the conclave because of his presence.
He also took several jibes at Pakistan cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who pulled out of the conclave since Rushdie, the author of the controversial 'Satanic Verses', was invited too.
"If Imran really wants to argue with the literary merits of the 'Satanic Verses', I am happy to meet him in a debate on that subject anywhere anytime. I am not sure that Imran Khan has liberal points of view about much. I think if he ever gets in the seat, We might see the consequences of the cause you know he has made deals with both the army and the mullahs. I think that's pretty clear in order to be where he is," the writer said.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader said he could not come to the same venue as Rushdie who had done "immeasurable hurt to Muslims" with his allegedly blasphemous references in "Satanic Verses".
(With additional inputs from agencies)
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