NEW DELHI: Accusing the Narendra Modi Government of playing "vote bank politics" to garner Hindu votes under the "mask of pro-development", Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar today claimed the ploy is to bring religion into politics.
Once a strong opponent of L K Advani, Aiyar also said he would have preferred to have the senior BJP leader as the Prime Minister, as "people worse than him" are in power.
The outspoken Aiyar said he was in the Speaker's Gallery in Parliament yesterday and saw that "so many non-religious people are sitting inside wearing religious clothes and the discussion is on them...sadvis and sadhus are talking like this".
He was referring to Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's controversial remark and BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj's comments calling Nathuram Godse a patriot just like Mahatma Gandhi.
"Those who are trying to bring religion into politics also have to wear the mask of being pro-development," Aiyar said, adding, that the country has to watch-out for wolves in sheep's clothing".
Speaking at Aaj Tak Agenda here, he said while vote bank politics has always been seen as an attempt to garner Muslim votes, the "fact" is that certain people want a vote bank of Hindus.
Just because you wear a religious garb does not mean you are spiritual. The distinction has to be acknowledged, he said.
He found an unlikely supporter in BJP leader Swami Chinmayananda, who said abuses should not have been used.
"Someone is talking about Godse, someone is saying...This is not as per the parliamentarian norms...if we cannot use proper words, then calling oneself religious leader is not right. Abuse cannot be a language of the religion or Parliament. Religion does not allow use of such languages".
However, he defended the Modi government saying it was for development and the dispensation is working in the interest of the entire country. Talking about the rath-yatra by Advani and the demolition of Babri Masjid, the Congress leader said had anyone told him then that a day will come when he will praise Advani, "I would have said that day will never come. But that day has come".
"These days I want Advani to become Prime Minister because people worse than him are in power and are taking the country in the wrong direction," Aiyar said.
Meanwhile, Maulana Mahmood Madani, who heads the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, claimed religion is being used in politics which is a dangerous trend.
Asked about Modi's refusal to wear a scull cap, he said, "I'm not in favor of tokenism. No point in wearing a skull cap and then 'baaki sabko topi pehna dena' (fooling others)".
Madani also said the threat is not from religion but "from misguided youth of the country".
Meanwhile, former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, while asking a question claimed that it was Mulayam Singh who had introduced Sakshi Maharaj to politics.
"Despite Azam Khan's and my objection, Mulayam Singh gave a Rajya Sabha ticket to him because he felt he would get Lodh votes," the former confidante of the SP chief said.
Singh, who was in the audience, was speaking in context of using religion and caste to garner votes.
He added that while Mulayam claimed in the morning that forced conversions of Muslim will lead to unrest, "the same afternoon in Parliament, he said nothing has happened in Agra".