New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday trained his guns at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, suggesting that his visit to the campus in the aftermath of the controversial protest amounted to providing 'respectability' to a movement whose charter was to break India.
He also suggested in Rajya Sabha that Congress, jointly with Left parties, had jumped into the JNU issue 'without giving prior thought' in view of the upcoming Assembly elections in West Bengal.
He contended that the developments of February 9 on JNU were 'much more serious' as he read out the pamphlets carrying anti-India material which were circulated in the campus.
"The core question is, are we going to give respectability to those whose primary ideology is that they want to break this country," Jaitley said while intervening in the debate on 'Situation arising out of recent incidents in institutions of higher education with reference to JNU and University of Hyderabad', as per PTI.
Referring to slogans which called for war for destruction of the country and lauded terrorists who had been convicted by the highest judiciary, Jaitley questioned, "Can hate speech be called free speech?"
He noted that being a mainstream party, Congress does not have the history of supporting the "fringe".
Jaitley agreed with Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad that two Congress prime ministers had fallen to the terrorists' bullets, a reference to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and said "that precisely should have been the reason for you (Congress) to speak more vigorously against the offences in JNU. At least on this issue, we expected you to be with us."
Suggesting that Congress had done so in view of West Bengal polls, he quipped, "The tragedy of Bengal is that there are three Congress parties - the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and Congress Marxist."
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien took objection to this, reminding that his party was separate since 1998.
The official Twitter handle of Trinamool Congress also tweeted about it and so did O'Brien:
— AITC (@AITCofficial) February 25, 2016
— Derek O'Brien (@quizderek) February 25, 2016
Meanwhile, Jaitley, a noted lawyer-turned-politician, defended the police entry into JNU, arguing that the campus was not a 'sovereign territory' like some foreign embassy.
Seeking to turn tables on Congress, he cited a Parliament Question of 1983 in which the then Indira Gandhi government had justified entry of police in JNU and arrest of 350 students, including 50 girls, after the Vice Chancellor was gheraoed.
Jaitley asked Opposition parties not to 'camouflage' the offence at JNU, saying 'its a very serious offence... One is jihadist, the other is Maoist. Its an alliance of the two. You have been in power for long, you should have thought before making a visit to the JNU campus."
(With Agency inputs)