'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' politics between Rahul-Modi
'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' was once again dragged into political discourse with Rahul Gandhi Tuesday taking a swipe at Narendra Modi, saying he should not use this salutation in his poll speeches but instead hail Anil Ambani, remarks that led the prime minister to hit back at the Congress chief asking who is he to issue a 'fatwa'.
In a sharp riposte hours after Gandhi said Modi should chant " 'Anil Ambani ki Jai', 'Nirav Modi ki Jai'....", the prime minister asserted he would utter 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' ten times in the presence of lakhs of people.
As the poll campaign for the Assembly polls in Rajasthan reached a crescendo, Gandhi said the prime minister says 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' in all his addresses, but works for industrialist Anil Ambani.
"In every address, he (PM) says Bharat Mata Ki Jai and works for Anil Ambani. He should begin his address by saying 'Anil Ambani ki Jai', 'Mehul Choksi ki Jai', 'Nirav Modi ki Jai', 'Lalit Modi ki Jai'," he told a poll rally in Alwar. Voting will take place on December 7.
Referring to the term 'Bharat Mata', Gandhi said it meant the "entire country, farmers, sentiments of crores of youths, women and labourers".
"If you talk about 'Bharat Mata', how can you forget about farmers?" he asked, adding bad debt worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore was written off, but not a single rupee of farmers was waived off by the Modi government.
Modi latched on to Gandhi's barb while addressing a rally in Sikar district.
"Congress has a 'naamdar'. That naamdar issued a 'fatwa'(decree) today that Modiji should not start addressing election rallies with 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'. And therefore, I, today in the presence of lakhs of people here, I crushed his fatwa and said Bharat Mata ki Jai ten times," Modi said.
"You (Gandhi) should be ashamed for this. Freedom fighters embraced death by saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. Our soldiers carry out surgical strikes and say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. You are insulting Bharat Mata," he added.
Modi often refers to Gandhi as "naamdar" (dynasty).
The prime minister also took a dig at Gandhi over issues relating to farmers.
"The naamdar does not know the difference between red and green chillies," he alleged at another rally in Hanumangarh.
"If you tell him that farmers are getting high prices for red chilli as compared to green chilli, he'll say farmers should grow red chillies," he said, alleging that the Congress was responsible for the pain of farmers.
The chanting of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' had triggered a row in 2016 after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the new generation needs to be taught to chant slogans hailing mother India.
"There is a need to tell the young generation to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai", Bhagwat said, breaking his silence on the issue of nationalism that had raged since the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) student leaders accused of heading an event in which many allegedly chanted slogans criticising the country.
His comments drew a spate of reactions from across party lines, with the most controversial among those coming from AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi who said he will not chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' even if a knife was put to his throat. Among Owaisi's most vocal critics were the Shiv Sena, who told him he should go to Pakistan if he does not chant slogans hailing mother India.
AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan was suspended from the Maharashtra Assembly for refusing to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.
The Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly also unanimously passed a censure motion against Owaisi for his remarks that he won't chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.
Senior RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale said Owaisi was an "anti-national", and that anybody who refused to say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' was also an "anti-national".
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah was heckled during Eid prayers at the 17th-century Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar on August 22 this year, two days after he chanted "Bharat Mata ki Jai" during a prayer meeting in Delhi for late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The National Conference leader remained unfazed and continued with his prayers, saying the jeering and booing were by his "own people" who were misguided.
(With inputs from agencies.)