The BJP slammed Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday for suggesting that Ram Nath Kovind became president because he was a Dalit, saying it showed the "anti-Dalit" mindset of Congress and demanded an apology from him. The party urged the Election Commission to take suo-moto cognisance of the statement and take action against Gehlot.
"It is very unfortunate that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a senior Congress leader who himself is on a constitutional post, made a casteist remark against the president, the custodian of the Constitution," BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao told reporters here. Rao said Gehlot criticised the president saying he was appointed to the highest office "only because of his social identity being a member from the Dalit community".
At a press conference in Jaipur, Gehlot suggested the BJP-led NDA picked Kovind over L K Advani as its presidential nominee because of his caste. He also linked Kovind's appointment to Gujarat polls. Under flak, Gehlot later tweeted he was "misquoted"and has the greatest regard for the president. He said he was "highly impressed" with Kovind's "simplicity and humbleness". Rao responded to Gehlot's tweet, saying a "profuge apology was expected and not a silly attempt at blaming media for your condemnable comments." He also questioned whether the Rajasthan chief minister will respect anyone besides "dynasty", an apparent reference to the Gandhi family.
The BJP described Gehlot's remarks as a low attack by Congress against the highest constitutional functionary in the country. "This is anti-Dalit, anti-poor, anti-people and anti-constitution statement made by Gehlot," he said. Asked about Gehlot's remarks, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, "We feel that people of all castes have elected Kovind ji as President of India and we should respect that." The BJP has demanded an apology also from Congress party president Rahul Gandhi.
It has also criticised Gandhi for his speech in Nanded in Maharashtra on Monday, where the Congress chief attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked how come all "thieves" have "Modi" as their surname, referring to fugitive businessman Nirav Modi and former IPL chairman Lalit Modi. "Rahul Gandhi cannot accept the fact that a person from a humble background, who is from a backward community, has become prime minister. For Rahul, only families can rule India," Rao said.
(With inputs from agencies.)