Sambit Patra

A photo showing Congress leaders eating at a restaurant on a day when they observed a ‘symbolic fast’ came in for severe criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday. The BJP’s spokesperson Sambit Patra accused the Congress of being ‘hungry for power, not just chhole-bhature‘ and said that the country would not forgive it for mocking Dalits.

Targeting the Congress president, Patra said, “You (Rahul Gandhi) can’t wake up early and can’t skip one meal, and you talk of bringing change in the country?”
Patra further alleged that the Congress is used to ‘politics of luxury,’ and said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in contrast, practices ‘politics of performance.’

Earlier on Monday, Sambit Patra had sharply criticised Congress’ protest led by Rahul Gandhi, calling it a ‘farce’ aimed at ‘burnishing’ Rahul’s political career. The BJP also termed the Congress’ decision to keep the 1984 anti-Sikh riots accused Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler away from the main dais as its “admission of guilt.”

Sambit Patra had lashed out at Rahul, asking if he had abstained even from one meal when anti-Dalit violence had happened in places like Mirchpur, Gohana, and Jhajjar during the Congress reign. According to Business Standard, Patra cited figures of anti-Dalit violence in five years of the Congress rule in the poll-bound Karnataka, stating that the state had reported 9,080 cases of crimes against the community and over 358 Dalits had been killed. “Gandhi should say when he plans to sit on a fast against crimes against Dalits in Karnataka,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi retorted to BJP’s attack by accusing the government of being ‘anti- Dalit’, ‘anti-poor’ and one which wants to divide the nation.

The fast organised by Congress leaders in Delhi’s Rajghat on Monday, ran into controversy, as images of them feasting on chhole-bhature became viral on social media. Party member Arvinder Singh Lovely, who could also be spotted in the viral photograph, defended the ministers by clarifying that the images were taken at 8 am while the fast was expected to begin at 10.30 am. News18 quoted him as saying: “The photograph was taken before 8 am. This is a symbolic fast from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm. It is not an indefinite hunger strike. Instead of properly running the country, they (BJP) concentrate on what we eat.”

The party had announced its plan to hold the fast last week, citing several issues such as the Supreme Court order diluting the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the disrupted Budget Session in the Parliament. The Congress also accused the NDA government of not allowing any discussion on these issues in the Parliament.

Apart from Delhi’s Rajghat, similar fast were organised by Congress units in Maharashtra as well.