New Delhi: The Congress is raising real issues such as farmers plight, while the BJP is "seizing" on anything to promote its "polarisation agenda" as it has no achievements to show, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on Sunday, asserting that the saffron party's 'achche din' promise remains unfulfilled.
Claiming that the government has "failed" on the foreign policy front, Tharoor in an interview to news agency PTI said the Congress would highlight these "failures" as also the so-called schemes that have remained "empty slogans" with no effect on the ground.
"The simple question to the voters is: Are you better off than you were in 2014? Have 'achche din' come for you? Most will say no," he asserted.
'Achche din' was a popular slogan coined by the BJP in the run-up to the 2014 polls that reverberated throughout India as the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power with a thumping mandate.
The MP from Thiruvananthapuram also said Congress president Rahul Gandhi's speech during the no-confidence debate in Parliament earlier this month clearly showed that the party was setting the agenda, raising issues such as the “Rafale scam” and the plight of farmers.
Asked what had brought about the change in Gandhi's image from a “reluctant politician” to a “real challenger”, he said it was the Congress chief's own efforts. “Rahul Gandhi has been especially sharp and incisive in his statements, while at the same time attentive and involved with the concerns of the country. His enthusiasm on social media, his wit, energy and sense of humour are all on display,” the former Union minister said.
“This is a man whose engagement on social media platforms speaks to a wider engagement with politics. There is neither ‘reluctance' nor frivolity on display here, only commitment and passion to make a better India,” he said.
Tharoor, whose ‘Hindu Pakistan' and ‘Taliban in Hinduism' remarks had created a furore recently, said he does not regret the comments. He asserted that the challenge in saying anything was how quickly the BJP and the media take it out of context to whip up a controversy.
"I did not say India is a Hindu Pakistan. I said if the BJP wins again and has the strength in both Houses of Parliament and the states, there will be nothing restraining them from fulfilling their project of creating a Hindu Rashtra, which would be a mirror image of Pakistan (since it too would be a state for a religious majority) and so reduce us to a Hindu Pakistan," he clarified.
Members of the BJPs youth wing -- Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) -- had defaced Tharoor's office in Kerala while demanding an apology for his "Hindu Pakistan" comments.
Explaining his 'Taliban in Hinduism' remark, Tharoor said he used the expression after the attack on his constituency office. After the attack, Tharoor at a public rally in Thiruvananthapuram had said, "Who gave them the right to decide I can't live here and must go to Pakistan? Are they saying that because I am not their kind of Hindu, I have no right to be in India? Are they starting a Taliban in Hinduism?"
"But whether I had said any of this or not, the BJP will seize on anything to promote their agenda of communal polarisation, because they have no other achievements to point to," he alleged.
The senior Congress leader also accused the BJP of making efforts to take away the focus from real issues, claiming that on the real issues the saffron party will lose. Tharoor asserted that inclusive politics was good for the country, and alleged that the BJP had unleashed a "climate of hatred, intolerance and division that will only hurt India".
He said that in the run-up to the 2019 polls, the Congress would raise issues such as inflation, the rise in prices of fuel and cooking gas, increase in unemployment, the "disaster of demonetisation", the "botched rollout of the GST", agricultural stagnation and farmer suicides among others.
Asked if the leadership issue among opposition parties would be settled after the general election depending upon the number of seats they get, Tharoor said, "Probably. Each party has its own leader. Ours is Rahul Gandhi."
On the BJP's charge that the Congress indulges in appeasement of minorities, he asked that if the minorities had been appeased for so long, why were the Muslims disproportionately poor, less literate, more unemployed than other communities.
"The Congress wishes to help the weakest and most marginalised sections of our society -- and that happens to include the minorities, but also Dalits, Adivasis, women, the disabled," he said. (PTI)