NEW DELHI: Opposition parties today condemned the "shameful" incidents of damage to statues in Tamil Nadu and Tripura, and hit out at the BJP, alleging that its members were becoming "intolerant" and were "insulting" the people, especially the poor.
The opposition leaders also demanded action against those involved in such acts of "hooliganism".
Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the damage to the statue of Periyar in Tamil Nadu was an insult to the entire country, especially the poor.
"In Tamil Nadu, the statue of Periyar was removed and damaged. It is a very big insult of not only people of Tamil Nadu, but also people of the country who believe in his ideology. In a democracy, there are people who believe in all kinds of ideologies. There is no tolerance in the BJP people and they are turning intolerant," he told reporters outside Parliament.
Kharge highlighted the contribution of rationalist leader EV Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar, saying he worked for the uplift of the Dalits, the oppressed and people of backward classes as the women in the southern state.
"Periyar helped them get political power. It is an insult to all poor in the country, as Periyar believed and fought for social justice. I and my party condemn the incident of causing damage to his statue. These are people with vested interest who are insulting leaders of rationalist movement in the name of religion. It is not right. People will not tolerate it," he said.
Kharge said the Congress-led governments had worked to ensure the country's unity in diversity, "unlike what is happening under the BJP's watch".
"These people want to break the country's unity. Today, when their government has come, such people are getting encouraged," he said, criticising BJP leader H Raja for his remarks against Periyar.
"They should not take the law into their hands. They think the Government of India is in their hands," he said.
Kharge noted that the incidents of damaging statues are taking place after the BJP came to power in Tripura last week.
"In democracy, once should convince people by one's ideology, not by hooliganism. Action must be taken against those who damaged the statues," the Congress leader added.
Targeting the BJP, TMC leader Derek O' Brien dubbed the incidents an "absolute shame" and "third class".
He alleged the ruling party workers "may next break statues of other iconic leaders as well".
"It is an absolute shame. In 2011, even we won the elections in Bengal. We do not endorse the philosophy of communists like Lenin, but you have to win political battles. This is like third class, but this is to be expected from this government," O'Brien told reporters outside Parliament.
CPI leader D Raja said Periyar was not just a great leader of Tamil Nadu but a global leader.
He was the founder of self-respect and rationalist movement and fought against the caste system.
"This kind of absurdity on the part of BJP leaders should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Till now India is a country which believes in a rule of law. But law and order in Tamil Nadu is going into the hands of the Sangh and Fascist forces," he alleged.
He also demanded that the BJP leadership should explain its position on BJP national secretary H Raja's comments.
The Periyar statue incident follows a row over comments made by BJP leader H Raja indicating that statues of Ramasamy could be the next to be pulled down after a statue of communist icon Vladimir Lenin was razed in Tripura on Monday.
As the remarks in a Facebook post against Ramasamy, the founder of the Dravidian movement, drew condemnation from several political parties in the state, Raja deleted it.
BJP's state unit has also distanced itself from the issue, saying it was Raja's view.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has strongly disapproved of incidents of vandalism reported from certain parts of the country.
Modi also spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the matter, following which the ministry said it has taken serious note of the incidents and directed state governments to take strong action.
Taking to Twitter, BJP chief Amit Shah also termed the incidents of desecration of statues as "extremely unfortunate" and asserted that any party member found involved in destroying a statue will face severe action.
He, however, ruled out any action against H Raja. Asked if the BJP will take action against Raja, Shah told reporters outside Parliament, "No, we will not".