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Kamal Nath says it was a fight for 'awareness'

By Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
December 15, 2002 21:36 IST
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Congress general secretary Kamal Nath on Sunday said that the Bharatiya Janata Party won in Gujarat because it used a "blatant communal card".

Nath, the Congress in-charge of Gujarat, said: "The BJP succeeded by dividing the electorate in Gujarat on communal lines and by creating an atmosphere of terror. We may have lost, but I want to emphasise that our party will never abandon secularism because it constitutes the very essence of democratic India.

"This was a fight not for political power, but for awareness. And the Congress has succeeded in sending its message of peace and development to the people of Gujarat. However, the BJP's victory is a short-term gain.

"The BJP's vicious communal propaganda succeeded... But secularism, which we follow, cannot be damaged as it is the country's soul," he said.

"There was no shortcoming in our electoral strategy… the BJP used its agenda of riot and communal poison," Nath said, adding, "we will fight it tooth and nail."

He said the results showed that the BJP gained in the riot-affected areas, but it did not fare as well in Saurashtra, where its communal card was mostly rejected.

Asked if the BJP, emboldened by the results in Gujarat, would use the same tactics in other states, Nath answered in the negative.

"The BJP cannot use its communal card everywhere because the people have by and large rejected communal forces. If our party is in power in 14 states, it is because of our secular, democratic and dynamic credentials," he pointed out.

Congress secretary and party spokesman Anil Shastri said: "The BJP's communal experiment in Gujarat is likely to be felt at the Centre and I think its party chief M Venkaiah Naidu's job now stands endangered.

"The hardline BJP leadership will now ponder bringing [Narendra] Modi to the Centre and I feel Naidu's days as the BJP chief are numbered.

"However, the Congress will counter the saffron party's diabolic agenda and now we are more than ever determined the BJP's policies, which are detrimental to the people and the country," Shastri added.

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Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi