All India Congress Committee General Secretary Digvijay Singh's statement that even the worst of criminals should be buried or cremated according to their faith has kicked up a storm in the Congress.
According to sources, Singh met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at 5 pm on Tuesday, to explain his side. But later, he said, "I stick to my statement."
While the party officially distanced itself from the statement, unofficially, senior leaders have strongly disapproved of the statement. A senior leader even went on to the extent of calling it a communal approach.
Commenting on Singh he said, "It is not a good thing to always react to increase one's personal constituency." The statement is being seen as a direct attack on the former chief minister, for his pro-Muslim stance on a number of issues.
It is no secret in the Congress that Singh, who is in charge of Uttar Pradesh and is seen to be close to Rahul Gandhi, has been appearing on a number of meetings for speaking up for the Muslim cause. In turn, the process is being feted by the community as a leader who speaks up for them.
Within the Congress, he is seen as a sharp leader who is filling up the space vacated by Arjun Singh, an upper caste Thakur, taking up the cause of the backwards and the minorities.
A source said that it is an approach which suits Rahul Gandhi. This is because the duo are using all resources at their command to win back the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh, as the battle for the Hindi heartland gets underway.
The Congress leader, who refused to be named, said that Osama Bin Laden was not involved in any religious work, nor indulging in any humanitariuan activities for the good of the people. "So there was no need to bring in the issue of his religion as there was no issue of principle involved here," he said.
He added that the party does not agree with Singh's statement, and this will be conveyed to him by the right quarters.
Singh's meeting with Sonia was released by certain channels as the latter having summoned the AICC General Secretary.
When asked, he categorically denied the summons saying it was "absolutely rubbish". He said he had gone to attend a meeting at 10 Janpath which was also attended by others such as Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Suresh Pachauri and said the issue of bin Laden was not raised.
Repeating his statement made on Monday, Singh clarified, "Osama is a terrorist and deserves the treatment he got. But at the same time, the worst of criminals should be buried or cremated according to their faith".
This statement has raised the heckles of a large number of people both inside and outside the Congress, at a time when the world is rejoicing the killing of the Al Qaeda leader who was in hiding for years after the attack on the twin towers in New York.
Within the Congress, there are strong groups who have opposed Singh on a number of occasions, and have attempted to put a gag on his utterances, so much so that the public spate with Union minister of Home Affairs P Chidambaram went on for days. But at the end, the leadership nearly always stood up to be counted with his utterances.
A seasoned leader who is known to be politically sharp and astute, Singh has always known how far to go, and where to draw the line. He has never been shy in articulating his views on even sensitive subjects, which is a trait which very few Congressmen share with him.
But in this particular case, as one leader put it, "In his haste to be different, and woo the Muslim brotherhood, Singh spoke unnecessarily. This is because both the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi have repeatedly emphasised that terror and terrorists have no religion. Bringing in religion in the Osama story has not gone down too well with the leadership, as it contradicts them".
For the moment the jury is still out on this one!