The Congress party’s 'fast for harmony' on Monday led to fresh political brickbats with party president Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being anti-Dalit and the ruling BJP criticising him for staging a "farce".
Blaming the BJP-led government for caste-based violence, communalism and non-functioning of Parliament, Gandhi led his party's nationwide daylong fast - 'Sadhbhavna Upvas' (Fast for harmony) - outside Rajghat. The fast started at 10.30 am.
Calling for peace and harmony in the country and labelling the prime minister as being "casteist" and "anti-Dalit", Gandhi said the Congress would always stand against the BJP's ideology.
"We are standing here today and will stand against it all our life,” he said, adding that his party will defeat the BJP in the 2019 elections.
The BJP's ideology is "to divide the country and crush Dalits, crush tribals and minorities," Gandhi said, referring to BJP president Amit Shah's recent speech equating opposition parties to various animals, including mongoose and snakes.
"A few days ago, a BJP leader said opposition leaders are animals. The truth is that today every person in India is standing against the government, whose approach is against the Dalits, tribals, minorities and farmers,” Gandhi said.
However, Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, listed as accused in 1984 anti-Sikh riots, stayed away from the main dais. While Kumar left the venue soon thereafter, Tytler sat in the audience along with party workers.
In view of it, spokesperson Sambit Patra mocked Gandhi and called the fast a "farce". He said the party's decision to keep Kumar and Tytler away from the main dais was its "admission of guilt".
"What we have seen from Rahul Gandhi today is not a fast but the farce of a fast. (It was) an attempt by his party to fast track his politics to burnish his credentials despite people rejecting him time and again," Patra said.
"After moral victory, Congress has now come up with the idea of 'symbolic fast' powered by chhole puri," said a BJP tweet with the hashtag "#RahulOnAFarce".
Gandhi was joined by senior leaders, including Kamal Nath, Mallikarjun Kharge, Sheila Dikshit, Ashok Gehlot, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and the party's communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala.
The fast was carried out across the country by Congress workers in all state and district headquarters.
"This is a fight for the ideology and values which India represents. We won't allow the politics of hatred and division aimed at garnering votes to succeed," Surjewala told reporters.
The congress leader said the BJP government had divided the country on communal lines and was now trying to drive a divide between Dalit and non-Dalits.
The BJP MPs will observe a fast on April 12 to protest the impasse in Parliament.