Taking a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said the saffron party is practicing a frightening level of communal polarization in election-bound states and this is a huge challenge for the Congress.
In an exclusive interview to PTI, parallel to the Ram Temple buildup in Ayodhya Sunday, Ramesh said for every Amit Shah, the BJP chief, there are 10 Amit Shahs of the RSS practicing covert polarization.
He said the modern name of 'tanashaahi' was Amit Shah and that Narendra Modi was "not prime ministerial" in his campaign as he indulged in "falsification of history and abuse of political rivals".
The senior Congress leader also noted that "false news" was the biggest enterprise in "Make in India" under the Modi government, as he accused the BJP of "manufacturing" issues out of non-issues.
"There is a high degree of communal polarization that the BJP is doing in every election and in these states," he told PTI.
Attributing even the "staggering" UP mandate of the BJP to communal polarization, Ramesh said, "The only explanation I have for the UP win of the BJP is the frightening level of communal polarization which incidentally they have been trying to do in these states also. They are doing this in Chhattisgarh and certainly in MP and Rajasthan."
The 64-year-old former minister, who is a part of the Congress core group for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll planning, said there were two types of communal polarization the BJP was indulging in across the country.
"One is overt polarization, which is the language used by Mr Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi. Then there is covert polarization done by the RSS and its people through the word of mouth and house to house," Ramesh said.
"Mr Amit Shah is a good example of a person who preaches and practices the politics of overt polarization" and that "for every Amit Shah there are 10 'Amit Shahs' of the RSS who are practicing and preaching covert polarization. That is what happened in UP," he noted.
Ramesh said the Opposition "tends to miss" overt polarization and also the seriousness of covert polarization.
On a query about whether the Congress has managed to address the issue of polarization, Ramesh said, "It is a huge challenge and it is not just an electoral challenge".
"It is a challenge we have to face — whether in power or outside," the Congress leader said, describing the battle with the RSS as a "long drawn out" one. "It is not a one-off thing. It is a long drawn out battle," Ramesh added.
He said the RSS had taken years, decades to "infiltrate" the tribal areas.
On why Congress leaders like CP Joshi continue to speak out of turn and make casteist remarks to aid the politics of polarization, Ramesh said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had come out very clearly against this.
Blaming the BJP for making an issue out of it, he said, "the BJP is very skilled at creating issues out of non-issues, at manipulation of news."
Asked if Congress leaders continued to defy the party chief by making statements that harm the party's interests, he said he does not blame the leaders as their statements, including himself, have been distorted by the BJP.
"I think this is 'Make in India', Make in BJP. Fake news is the biggest enterprise in 'Make in India' during the BJP regime. The fact is that Mr Modi himself, during his election campaign, indulges in falsification of facts, he indulges in falsification of history," he alleged.
"He is not prime ministerial in his campaign. After all Prime Minister is Prime Minister. Whoever the individual, the position of PM must be respected.
"(But) the PM should not demand respect, he should command respect. It is no use Mr Modi demanding respect. He should command respect. The way he distorts history, the way he falsifies facts, the way he abuses his political opponents. And look at the way Mr Amit Shah has been talking of the NRC for example, calling people 'termites'," he said, training his guns on the prime minister for his attacks on the Congress and the Gandhi family.
"Amit Shah is the new word of 'tanashaahi'. The modern phrase of 'tanashaahi' is Amit Shah," he said.
Ramesh also pointed out to the manner in which the Reserve Bank of India has been "bludgeoned into submission" and its rights eroded and how institutional autonomy has been compromised.
"The 'institutional capture' by the RSS and the BJP is bizarre," he lamented.
Ramesh said the Congress did not face anti-incumbency in these elections and the mood of the people was clearly in its favour and it would thus fare well in the elections to these five states.
He also did not consider this as a "semi-final" to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but said the important decisions of the Modi government — like demonetisation, farm crisis and the Rafale deal — will certainly have an impact in these state polls.
( With inputs from PTI )