‘Congress-free’ India is about getting rid of ‘Cong culture’: Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his slogan of ‘Congress-free India’ was not about eliminating the main opposition party politically but about ridding the country of the “Congress culture” which he termed as casteist, dynastic, corrupt and involving total control over power among other ills.

Maintaining that the Congress has been the “main pillar” of politics in the country that spread its culture to all political parties, he told Times Now in an interview that his call for “Congress mukt” or ‘Congress-free India’ was “symbolic” and he wants even the Congress to be free of the “Congress culture”.

He also attacked the opposition party for its objection to the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha, saying instead of indulging in vote bank politics it must get out of this “regressive mindset”.

Modi wondered if politics has fallen so low that it cannot look at the legislation from the point of view of women’s empowerment

The prime minister dwelt at length for the first time on his “Congress-mukt Bharat” slogan, which he had coined during his 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign.

The slogan became a popular political weapon, after the Congress was reduced to a tally of 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, and subsequently lost power in many states to the BJP.

It is now in power only in Punjab, Puducherry, Karnataka and northeastern states of Meghalaya and Mizoram. Elections have already been announced for Meghalaya in February.

Modi said in the interview that even though the slogan became famous, the sentiment behind it could not spread effectively, as things are often said in a hurry in the flow of politics.

Modi said that when he spoke of the ‘Congress-free India’, it was not limited to the Congress as an organisation or its particular unit.

“The culture of the Congress that emerged after independence started appealing to other political parties. They feel that taking a certain path will prove to be successful; casteism, dynasty, corruption, exploitation, treachery and keeping complete control over power. All this became a part of Indian political culture whose main pillar was the Congress,” he claimed.

The Congress at the time of the freedom struggle also had a culture which inspired the youth to sacrifice their lives for the country, he said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has used Modi’s slogan of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ to attack the BJP, saying he would fight the saffron party ideologically but would never want to wipe it out as it was also an expression of a section of the society.

Modi, however, said that when he spoke of ‘Congress-free India’, it was not limited to the Congress as an organisation or its particular unit.

The Congress has spread itself as a culture throughout the country, he said.

“So when I say Congress-free India, it is not related to election outcomes. I would want that even the Congress on its own should free itself of the Congress culture.

“It would be in the country’s interest that Congress is also freed of the Congress culture. It’s necessary for a healthy democracy. That’s what I meant by the Congress-free India,” he said.

Referring to the Congress-culture, he said these “shortcomings” were seen in all parties to some extent.

Political parties will have to be saved from this culture and the country’s political character will have to be saved, Modi said.

“The coming generations will have to be saved from this culture. So what I am saying is symbolic. My emphasis is not limited to the Congress as a political party,” he said.

In an apparent dig at Gandhi over his attack on the Modi government during his recent speeches abroad, Modi said if people go out in the world and say something, then “it’s more about revealing the identity of the person than the country’s identity”.

Taking on the Congress over its opposition to triple talaq bill, Modi said he believed the mistake that the party made when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister would have taught it something.

In 1985, the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of Shah Bano, a divorced woman who had sought maintenance from her husband. However, following a backlash from orthodox Muslim groups, the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi had diluted the order through an act.

“It was a move to let everyone live with dignity. Why the Congress was not able to understand this social service is a matter of concern. Has politics fallen so low?…Is the hunger for power so much that they can keep watching innocent mothers and sisters suffer and yet continue with their politics. This is very selfish. This pains me,” he said.

The environment has also changed and Islamic countries across the world have also changed their laws, Modi said.

“So the Congress party or any party that indulges in vote bank politics must get out of this regressive mindset and think from the point of view of women’s empowerment and respect for women,” he said.

The prime minister claimed that the bill, which is likely to be pushed again by the government during Parliament’s budget session, was not a political move but aimed at saving Muslim women affected by the practise of triple talaq.

To a question on schemes which he thought had not fructified and would need more attention, Modi mentioned ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana’, which he had launched soon after coming to power in 2014.

He lauded the scheme, which envisages parliamentarians adopting a village in their constituency for all-round development as a model, but said what he had expected had not happened.