In a remark row, Rahul attacks the BJP for its “fringe” stance

New Delhi: The core of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is “fringe”, said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday, highlighting some controversial comments of senior BJP leaders in the past.

Gandhi’s comments come days after the India missions in Kuwait and Qatar dubbed the controversial remarks of BJP’s now-sacked spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal on Prophet Mohammed as “the views of fringe elements” and that they “do not reflect the views” of the Indian government.

“Fringe is BJP’s core,” Gandhi tweeted on Wednesday and shared an image of headlines of news reports on statements of senior BJP leaders like Union home minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur and Lok Sabha MP from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya.

Of the headlines shared by Gandhi, one was about Shah calling illegal migrants from Bangladesh “termites”, while others included Adityanath saying “women not capable of being left free or independent”; Anurag Thakur “chanting traitor of the country be shot”; and Pragya hailing Nathuram Godse as “deshbhakt” (nationalist).

The former Congress president’s tweet comes amid a global outcry over the controversial comments on Prophet Mohammed made by former BJP spokespersons.

During a television debate on May 28, Nupur Sharma made controversial remarks about Prophet Mohammed and on June 1 Naveen Kumar Jindal tweeted some objectionable comments. While the government distanced itself from such remarks, the ministry of external affairs later said the “statements by some individuals do not represent that of the government”.

On June 5, the BJP suspended Sharma and expelled its Delhi unit media head Jindal as the row over their derogatory remarks escalated with protests from some Muslim countries, including Indonesia, the UAE, the Maldives, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya, Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Afghanistan. The BJP also issued a statement asserting “it respects all religions and strongly denounces insults of any religious personality”.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also took a jab at the BJP-led government, saying they have been “spewing hatred” on minorities and political opponents since 2015. “Our embassies abroad distribute BJP’s apologies. Government keeps mum,” he said.

After their suspension, both Sharma and Jindal tendered unconditional apologies. However, most senior BJP leaders have not made any statements on the issue despite continuous pressure from Opposition parties.

Senior Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera held a press conference and said the “world is watching the hateful commentaries of the country’s ruling party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long-haul silence over eight years on different matters”.

“They are fond of speaking. But when people from their own party are spreading hatred, they are silent and the whole world is watching,” Khera said.

BJP national spokesperson R P Singh said, “A man who is a fringe in politics is raising fingers at others. The Congress should first look inwards.”

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