SUPAUL/ARARIA: A day after Congress demanded an apology from him over the controversial remarks by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, BJP’s Bhopal candidate, on 26/11 hero Hemant Karkare, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on Congress on Saturday, asking why questions over the 2008 Batla House encounter were not seen an insult to martyrs.

The reference to the questioning of the encounter of an Indian Mujahideen module at Batla House was clear enough as the issue was raised by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh, who is Sadhvi’s opponent in Bhopal. He had termed the shootout in which Delhi police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was killed as fake and had demanded a judicial probe.
“Wasn’t raising a question on the Batla House encounter an insult to the martyr?” the Prime Minister said while addressing a rally in Araria. The constituency, where Muslims constitute 44% of the voters, has been seen as the setting for politics of polarisation. The seat was represented by the late RJD leader Taslimuddin whose son Sarfaraz is now the party’s candidate.
Referring to the incident, Modi said brave policemen destroyed the terror module in Batla House but instead of being happy, Congress leaders had “tears in their eyes” as they did politics of ‘vote bhakti’. Apart from the setting of Araria itself, the Prime Minister’s theme was to attack Congress as responsible for creating a “Hindu terror” narrative as part of BJP’s broader campaign theme.
“The country has witnessed two types of politics — of vote bhakti and of desh bhakti. The former was on display when after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks the government of the day did not go after Pakistan for abetting terror.
“It rather chose to derail the investigations in many terror cases by coming up with the theory of Hindu terror. Desh bhakti was demonstrated by us when the Uri terror attack was replied with a surgical strike and Pulwama was followed by air strikes,” Modi told an election rally here.
He asked: “How could they work for ‘Bharat Mata’ (India) when they sit with the ‘tukde tukde’ gang?”
Though Modi referred to Batla House in the context of doubts raised on the outcome of the IAF’s air strikes on Balakot, his remarks come just when BJP was questioned by Congress and others on Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s statement on Karkare.
As Modi spoke in Araria, which is in the list of 115 most backward districts of the country, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally barely 50km away in Supaul as the battle of Koshi region intensified on Saturday.
Besides raising the Rafale deal and the Modi government’s failure on the jobs front, Gandhi mainly focused on promises made in the Congress manifesto, including the NYAY scheme (providing Rs 72,000 per annum to five crore poor families), loan waiver, job creation and a separate budget for agriculture.
Besides Araria and Supaul, three more constituencies — Madhepura, Khagaria and Jhanjharpur — of this region will go to the polls on April 23. Araria will see a direct contest between RJD and BJP with the latter fielding Pradip Kumar Singh, who lost to Taslimuddin in 2014. Sarfaraz Alam won the seat in the 2018 byelection after the death of his father.
Rahul’s move to address the rally at Supaul created some unease in the grand alliance as RJD leader Dinesh Prasad Yadav filed his nomination as an independent against Congress’ sitting MP Ranjeet Ranjan. Though RJD leaders are not campaigning for Dinesh Yadav, they didn’t even turn up at Gandhi’s rally.
Though Gandhi in his speech repeatedly called Ranjeet Ranjan as a grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) candidate, the absence of RJD’s top leadership was a clear signal of bitterness due to Pappu Yadav’s contest with RJD’s Sharad Yadav in Madhepura.