MUMBAI: While cutting down on the nationalism narrative being harped by the BJP, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Thursday said that Congress is not against Savarkar. He also stated that the party didn’t oppose abrogation of article 370 from J&K but opposed the way it was done.
"The Congress does not need a certificate of patriotism from anyone, as its record during the freedom struggle is well-known," Dr Singh said, adding that the BJP or its parent RSS were not part of the nationalist movement.
When asked about Maharashtra BJP’s poll promise to seek Bharat Ratna for V D Savarkar, Singh said the Congress only opposes Savarkar’s Hindutva ideology.
Referring to the Hindu Mahasabha leader with a reverential “Savarkar ji”, Singh said former Congress prime minister, late Indira Gandhi had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar’s memory.
“(But) we are not in favour of the Hindutva ideology that Savarkar ji patronised and stood for,” Singh said.
While the BJP has been attacking the Congress for its stand on abrogation of Article 370, Singh said that the Congress opposes the “high-handedness” with which it was introduced in the Parliament.
Earning goodwill of the people of Jammu and Kashmir was necessary before such a move, the former prime minister said.
“Congress voted in favour of the move (the abrogation) in Parliament, not against it. Congress feels that Article 370 is a temporary measure, but if a change is to be brought, it has to be with the goodwill of the people of J&K,” he said.
Singh also hit out against the NDA government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, calling it a divisive move that discriminates against the Muslims by facilitating Indian citizenship for persons of all faiths except Muslims.
He also claimed that for the first time in the history of Parliament such a divisive bill has been tabled.
On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, Singh said the BJP expected that it will exclude Muslims, but 12 lakh out of the 19 lakh people who could not establish their citizenship status was Bengali Hindus.
“There is a need to look at things in an objective manner in matters such as the NRC, and while people would want to identify foreign nationals and ensure they do not get any benefits, we need to look at the issue with full sympathy as a human problem," Dr Singh said.
The economist-turned-politician also said that agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) should not be used to settle “political scores”.
The ED, under the NDA regime, has got more powers than ever, and should not be used for political vendetta against leaders of “different hues,” Singh said.