India: BJP, Congress Spar Over Rushdie Row

A political slugfest broke out on over the Salman Rushdie controversy on Monday with BJP slapping charges of "match fixing" on Congress which hit back accusing the saffron party of playing a "dangerous" game on a sensitive issue.

BJP, Cong spar over Rushdie row

NEW DELHI: A political slugfest broke out on over the Salman Rushdie controversy on Monday with BJP slapping charges of "match fixing" on Congress which hit back accusing the saffron party of playing a "dangerous" game on a sensitive issue..

India: BJP, Congress Spar Over Rushdie Row

"It is a clear case of match fixing between intelligence agencies and jehadis in which the Congress-led government in Rajasthan played a supportive and active role," BJP's spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said.

Congress was using the issue to gain political mileage in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Prasad said, also alleging that Congress deliberately communalized UP politics citing Digvijay Singh, who termed the Batla House encounter as fake.

Senior BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said, the government should have provided protection to Rushdie rather than stage managing his absence with a concocted death threat.

Rushdie had cancelled his visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival, saying he had received information from intelligence sources in Rajasthan and Maharashtra that "paid assassins" had been engaged to eliminate him if he turned up at the literary fair.

Reacting sharply to the BJP attack, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, "it is much more than a case of the pot calling the kettle black or the thief accusing the policeman... BJP's talking about communalism is worse than the devil quoting scriptures. It is utter hypocrisy of the party."

Singhvi said, the government of India had made it clear there was no ban on Rushdie visiting the country as he is a PIO card holder and does not require a visa.

By raking up the Rushdie issue now, BJP is "flogging a dead horse," Singhvi said, while accusing the main Opposition of playing a very dangerous game if it is saying that the Rajasthan government should not have shared with or alerted the home ministry or agencies about the inputs.

The same BJP would have then attacked the government citing intelligence inputs if anything untoward had happened, Singhvi said. He accused BJP of seeing every issue from the "prism of communalism" and doing politics over a sensitive matter.

Prasad pointed out that, the Rajasthan government has not denied statements of Rushdie, and that the sponsors of the Jaipur festival about intelligence inputs that "paid assassins" from Mumbai could target him.

"But at the same time DGP of Maharashtra has gone on record to say that they had not provided any input to Rajasthan in this regard. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot insisted that his government had received six messages from IB on the threat. Keeping in mind the entire background, Prasad said, "it is necessary to know who is speaking the truth."

If, as claimed by Gehlot that top intelligence officials were aware of the input, then why was the Maharashtra Police not alerted about it so that they could take pre-emptive steps.

Prasad claimed the entire episode had put a question mark on the credibility and integrity of the intelligence agency. He demanded a probe into the matter to find out "who was speaking the truth" and said since intelligence agencies report to the Prime Minister, he should take note of it.