Rahul Gandhi's remark about communal conflicts in Uttar Pradesh being "deliberately engineered" has triggered a war of words between Congress and BJP, with both accusing each other of indulging in "communal politics".
While the Congress came out in support of Rahul Gandhi and blamed BJP for exploiting the situation for political purposes, BJP targeted Rahul saying it "reflected the party's communal thinking".
"Unfortunately ever since the BJP government has come to office at the centre, there is a growing realisation that the government is interested in keeping communal temperatures towards a degree just below the boiling point so that they can exploit religious polarisation for political purposes," senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
"And thus you have a situation in UP whereby, clustered around those 10-12 peaks where by-elections are scheduled, you have a series of incidents taking place. Its incumbent upon the central government to be proactive, to take it up with the state government and to ensure that if there is any communal polarisation anywhere around the country," a serious attempt is made to avert such a situation.
"Unfortunately the perception about the central government is completely opposite," he added.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had reportedly said, "Communal conflict is being artificially and deliberately engineered in our country, especially in Uttar Pradesh. This is a deliberate strategy to divide the poor of this country and pit brother against brother, to prevent people from uniting to fight the true enemy -- inequality, poverty and lack of opportunity."
Hitting back, senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said whatever is happening in UP was because of Congress as it took support of the Samajwadi Party, which is ruling the state.
"If any party does communal politics, it is Congress. They had alliance with Muslim League. In Hyderabad they had tie up with MIM. Even now, in both the houses of Parliament... by discussing communal situation, their motive is to increase communal tension," Javadekar said while condemning Gandhi's statement.
Javadekar further added, "Rahul's statement should not be given so much importance. Narendra Modi has already said one has to decide whether one would fight against poverty or Hindus and Muslims will fight against each other. The vision is to take everybody together."
"But Congress' thinking is totally communal and I condemn his statement because their communal thinking comes out of that," he said.
Meanwhile coming to the defence of Rahul Gandhi, while some Congress leaders said that there are "multiple elements" in UP who are spreading rumours with an aim to charge the atmosphere, others maintained that there is an attempt to create conflict between people and UP is being pushed into "pyre of politics."
"Rahul's comment is right. There are multiple elements in UP which are continuously attempting to spread rumours with an aim of continually charging the atmosphere. These occurrences are a major cause of worry not just for UP but for the entire country," senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad said.
"The entire country is aware of the hate politics prevalent in UP. There is an attempt to create conflict between people as seen in Muzzafarnagar, Moradabad and Saharanpur. UP is being pushed into pyre of politics," yet another Congress leader Rashid Alvi said.
Rallying behind the Congress vice president's comment, Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said that her party does not believe in any politics which is "divisive" and Congress believes in "inclusive" politics.
"What Rahul Gandhi has said is absolutely true. The Congress party does not believe in any politics which is divisive. We believe in inclusive politics," she said.
"The entire nation knows that ever since the BJP government has come to power at centre, how they been trying to create communal divide in UP," she said citing the examples of Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad and Meerut where "smallest incidents like conflict between two people, were exploded into communal issue by the BJP."
"They are power seekers. Narendra Modi, his company and the Sangh Parivar shot to power through divisive politics. They should give the promise of growth to people instead of giving people Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad and Meerut. Its not about Rahul Gandhi finding a voice now. Rahul has a very strong voice and he is a leader and we are proud of him in the Congress party," she said.
Meanwhile Samajwadi Party leaders blamed the BJP for such communal conflicts and said that they have been trying to turn the state into "another Gujarat".
"BJP believes that since they are in power at the centre, they have got permission to create anarchy in UP. UP is a land of good faith with the mannerisms of Ganga and Yamuna. BJP has always tried to turn UP into another Gujarat," SP leader Rajendra Choudhary said.
However, stepping up the attack on Congress, BJP leaders called Rahul Gandhi "arrogant and autocratic" and said if the Congress vice president was so concerned with good governance, then he should ensure law and order in states governed by his party.
"Who takes Rahul Gandhi seriously in any case. If he was so concerned about good governance, why does not he ensure law and order in the states that are governed by Congress. He has no answer for that," said Shania NC, BJP leader.
She blamed the SP government in UP for failing to administer UP and said, "Clearly what has happened in UP is unfortunate. Post 2014, we have seen over 600 such cases, if they (SP) are unable to administer, they have no right to be in power."
"Rahul Gandhi should understand that his political secularism has been erased. He should stop using this formula of expired political secularism and introspect instead about political decisions of his party. If he remains arrogant and autocratic, he will not benefit," senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Other BJP leaders maintained that both Congress and SP were "hands in glove" in the name of inclusive politics and blamed them for playing vote bank politics.
Image: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi