The Congress' position has and will always be to respect electors and their freedom of choice irrespective of their location, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said on Wednesday, even as he refused to comment specifically on Rahul Gandhi's 'North-South' remarks. Sibal also slammed the BJP for accusing Congress of creating a divide, saying it was not only ludicrous and laughable but mischievous as well for a party to level such an allegation that has "perfected the art of dividing communities, dividing mindsets and polarizing societies".
His remarks came amid a political slugfest over Gandhi's comment, with the BJP leaders accusing the former Congress chief of belittling North Indians and of speaking in different tones in different parts of the country. Asked about Gandhi's remarks, Sibal told PTI, "I do not know the substance of the comment nor do I know the context of the comment. So I do not wish to comment on Rahul Gandhi's statement at all." "All that I need to say is as a Congressman, I respect every elector in this country, no matter where he or she is located. I respect his or her freedom of choice and wisdom when he or she exercises the right to vote," he said. Sibal said he does not think any Congress person would ever believe that an elector in this country does not deserve respect. "That always has been the position of the Congress party and will continue to be the position of the Congress party," asserted Sibal, who is among the 'group of 23' leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi seeking large-scale party reforms. Sibal further said the BJP is a "political party that has perfected the art of dividing communities, dividing mindsets and polarizing societies". They should not be heard to make that charge against the Congress party, he said.
That charge is not only ludicrous and laughable but mischievous as well, the former Union minister added. Earlier, another G-23 leader Anand Sharma also reportedly said only Rahul Gandhi can clarify in what context he made that observation and asserted that the Congress has never disrespected any region. Reports also said G-23 members Ghulam Nabi Azad, Bhupinder Hooda and Sharma met at Azad's house. While this particular meeting could not be confirmed immediately, party sources said such courtesy meetings among leaders are routine.
Addressing a public gathering in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, Gandhi had said, "For the first 15 years, I was an MP in the north. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in issues." The comments triggered sharp reactions from several BJP leaders, including some senior ministers, who immediately accused the Congress of being an 'opportunist' and alleged that Gandhi belittled North Indians, despite him and his family members winning several elections from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in the past. Reacting to the attack from BJP leaders, the Congress said Gandhi had given a clarion call to the people to question the government on real issues and the north-south divide was a "toolkit" being sold by the BJP to the public.