NEW DELHI: Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma courted a major controversy with his remarks that late president A P J Abdul Kalam was a great nationalist "despite being a Muslim" with Congress terming the comments as "vicious".
"We have renamed Aurangzeb Road after a person, who despite being a Muslim, is a great nationalist...," Sharma told a news channel. His remarks were sharply criticised by Congress which termed them as "convoluted and vicious". All India Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi also demanded Sharma should be made to quit the government for "suspecting nationalism" of Muslims.
Congress Spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said, "Congress and myself, a practising Muslim, want to tell the Prime Minister and his Minister Mahesh Sharma that I am a nationalist and so were my father and grandfather and we do not need a certificate from this government to say so.
"It is the convoluted and vicious thought of this government that even in trying to honour the former President, they are insulting him," he said. Another party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, "We have found that the BJP, RSS or other fundamentalist elements of the Sangh Parivar speak wittingly or unwittingly such things that reveal their inner most prejudices and beliefs."
"This is the unfortunate hatred they harbour, which is repeatedly reflected in such statement." Owaisi said, "First of all I would like to know from the Modi government because there is a collective responsibility in a Parliament democracy. Is this the opinion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that this government views 17 crore proud Muslims in India as not being nationalist?"
"... Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is a Culture Minister, but an uncultured man has no right whatsoever to give a nationalist certificate to 17 crore proud Indians. I would like to know from the Prime Minister that he has said that he will give Quran in one hand and computer in another hand. Is that what he meant," the AIMIM leader hit out.
"So, what is his cabinet minister saying?... He must be kicked off from the cabinet," he added. On August 28, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) gave its nod to rename Aurangzeb Road in Lutyen's Delhi as A P J Abdul Kalam Road here.