Friday, February 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee denies Oppn charge

New Delhi, February 21
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today regretted that his words were distorted to make it appear as if the BJP did not need the Muslim vote.

“It is unfortunate,” Mr Vajpayee stated, “that the level of political discourse in our country has dipped so low as to be devoid of even elementary concern for facts.

He was responding to allegations that his remarks were intended to divide the nation along communal lines.

The Prime Minister said he had given the rejoinder to the criticism of the Opposition in the hope that “our critics will stop this unfortunate diatribe by taking a relook, with an open mind, at my actual statement in Varanasi” and the actual performance of his government in the past four years.

The Congress, Communist and Samajwadi parties have strongly reacted to the remarks attributed to the Prime Minister during an election rally in Varanasi and one party had gone up to demanding Mr Vajpayee’s immediate disenfranchisement for his alleged statement that “the BJP does not need the vote of Muslims and that his party would form the government in Uttar Pradesh even without their vote.” The Prime Minister clarified what he had actually said in Varanasi.

...However, to urge our Muslim brothers to vote in such a way as to defeat the BJP connotes a very wrong way of thinking. For one thing, the BJP is going to win even if they vote against the party. But my question is: Why should they vote against us? During our tenure we have established good relations with Muslim countries across the world. The way we have governed the country for the past two-and-half years is a testimony to the truth and we do not discriminate on the basis of religion. For us, Muslims are not merely Muslims. In our eyes they are human beings. And not only human beings, we look upon them as Bharat Mata ki Santan (the children of Mother India). Muslims too are fighting for India on the borders...”

The Prime Minister clarified that in rally after rally, he had stated that “we would very much like them (Muslims) to support us on the basis of our performance and our promise. Far from seeking to divide the people of India, it was aimed at fortifying their unity,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee said: “Never in my long life in politics have I played the communal card to win elections. My life and my work are a testimony to the importance I attach to the harmony between the Hindus and Muslims for the sake of national integration and India’s all-round development.” UNI

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