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Congress, BJP clash on Rahul Gandhi’s fast with solidarity of dalit Hyderabad students

New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s day-long fast on Saturday in empathy with the Hyderabad students’ fast for deceased Dalit student Rohith Vemula evoked a sharp reaction from the BJP. Three Union ministers led by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of shedding “crocodile tears” over Rohith’s suicide and blasted Rahul for using students as a “political tool.” Ahead of elections in UP, Congress is already out to make Rohith the face of its campaign against the government. Big banners depicting Rohith and Rahul Gandhi have been put up outside Youth Congress headquarters in Delhi.

Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said nine cases of Dalit student suicides had taken place in the campus during the UPA rule but Rahul never bothered to go there as he asked opposition parties to wait for the report of the judicial commission probe ordered by the Centre into the suicides.

“Congress is shedding crocodile tears simply to gain political mileage… This is part of their anti-Modi campaign across the country,” Naidu told reporters while Union transport and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari decried Rahul for “politicising” the students at a time when they are busy with studies as the exams near.

Earlier in Hyderabad, activist and Professor Kancha Ilaiah offered juice to Rahul to end his strike. Rahul thanked Rohith’s family and students of the university for inviting him. Drawing a parallel between the lives of Rohith and Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress vice president said, “It is a very interesting day as it is not just Rohith’s birthday but also Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary. Nobody has a right to take away the right to ‘search for the truth’. This is exactly what happened with Gandhiji and Rohith as well,” he said. Rahul also advocated enacting a law to end discrimination at universities.

Gadkari accused Rahul of trying to create another round of unrest, just to politicise the issue. Rural development minister Birender Singh said: “The Congress party which that has been reduced to 44 MPs from 206 MPs in Lok Sabha is politicising every issue.” Hitting back, Congress spokesman Ajay Maken asserted that the students in Hyderabad, and in fact in many cities including Delhi, are agitated because the government has failed to initiate action against its ministers for the suicide of the Dalit scholar.

“Who has resorted to politics in the matter? It is the BJP. Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya wrote to HRD minister Irani against the Dalit students following complaint from the local ABVP President. The HRD Minister wrote as many as five letters to the university (for actions against Rohit and his other colleagues)” Maken told reporters here.

He also referred to BJP general secretary Murlidhar Rao’s “patently false” charge that Rohith was not a Dalit and that he and other Dalit scholars with him had links with the Naxalites. Is this not politicisation, he asked.

Three of the students including two research scholars who were earlier suspended along with Rohith and have sat on a fast unto death, are also demanding sacking of Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya. Rohith was found hanging in the varsity’s hostel room on January 17.

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