Priyanka made 'confessional' statement about Cong becoming 'fringe' outfit: Jaitley
New Delhi, May 2: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's comment that the Congress will cut into BJP's votes in Uttar Pradesh is a "confessional statement" about her party becoming a "fringe organisation", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.
Addressing a press conference, the BJP leader also mocked top Congress leaders as "chunavi Hindus" (Hindus during elections) for their visits to temples during elections, saying they never did so during previous polls and have been compelled to do so now.
Jaitley seized on the Congress general secretary's remarks made on Wednesday in Amethi that her party will not adversely impact the prospects of the SP-BSP alliance in the most politically crucial state as it has chosen its candidates in a way that they will either win or cut into the BJP's votes.
"This is her confessional statement about the Congress becoming a fringe organisation... a mainstream party, the grand old party of Indian politics is now a fringe organisation in India," he said.
The Congress used to be a party of 300-400 seats during the times of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, then became a party of 125-150 seats during Rajiv Gandhi's era and is now a party of 40-70 seats, he said, adding the 2009 election was an exception when it won more than 200 seats. In a swipe at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Jaitley said it was inconceivable at one time that Congress leaders would support those chanting slogans in favour of India's break-up.
The BJP leader was apparently referring to Rahul Gandhi's visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2016 to express solidarity with a group of students who were protesting police action against students accused of raising anti-national slogans.
On opposition's criticism that the BJP was making nationalism an election issue, Jaitley said it is a matter of "shame" if it believes nationalism should not be a poll issue. He also termed as "rubbish" the Congress allegation that the model code of conduct (MCC) has become 'Modi Code of Conduct' under the Election Commission, saying the opposition party has made it a habit of attacking institutions.
Accusing the Congress of making "frivolous complaints", an apparent reference to its pleas against Modi, the finance minister said MCC does not encroach upon free speech, but is subject to it. Asking people to remember the martyrdom of soldiers when they vote is not poll code violation, he asserted, adding Modi did not seek votes for a party or a candidate when he said so.
To a question on Congress leader Digvijaya Singh inviting a group of 'sadhus' (seers) to Bhopal, from where he is contesting the Lok Sabha election, Jaitley again threw "chunavi Hindu" barb at the opposition leader. When the Vishwa Hindu Parishad would say "garv se kaho hum Hindu hain" (say with pride we are Hindus), the Congress used to call it "communal", he said, adding its top leaders have now been forced to become "chunavi Hindus".
Noting that top Congress leaders have been frequenting temples, he said they did not do it in 2004, 2009 or 2014 elections, but are doing it now. On AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's reported comments that voters should take bribe if offered by rival candidates, but vote for his party, Jaitley said some leaders are not worthy of response.