New Delhi: Asserting that India will never be intolerant, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday rejected Congress' pitch on the issue, saying opponents must fight political battles politically, and wondered "where is the intolerance".
Calling as "aberrations" some of the recent incidents including the beef row, Jaitley insisted that there is "no justification" in returning of awards and the national situation "is absolutely peaceful. India is fully committed as a liberal democracy to peaceful co-existence".
"There is an atmosphere of harmony. This country has never been intolerant and will never be intolerant," the BJP leader said.
He was replying to questions including about the protest march of Congress to President Pranab Mukherjee on the issue today and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Sciences holding a seminar with 'Leftist' intellectuals on the issue.
Stressing that "political opponents must fight political battle politically", the Finance Minister said that it is "not fair" to create an issue due to political reasons and then link it to government even when incidents of crime are happening in states ruled by other parties.
"Where is the intolerance? We are the most vibrant democracy. The atmosphere will not change only by talking. If some incident happens like the one in Karnataka, which is Congress-ruled, you cannot link it to the central government to attack. That is not fair."
"This is a crime and action should be taken against whoever commits crime. That is why people in the mainstream in the country have opposed it," he said.
The Minister was speaking after unveiling the plans for the 46th International Film Festival of India. The IFFI is being held in Goa between November 20 and November 30.
BJP and Congress have locked horns over the issue of "growing intolerance" in society, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday saying the Congress president had no moral right to lecture the NDA on tolerance and it should "hang its head in shame" for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots where thousands were massacred.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi yesterday met President Mukherjee ahead of the proposed march by party leaders to Rashtrapati Bhavan today to request him to invoke his constitutional powers to stem the "atmosphere of intolerance".
Jaitley also expressed confidence that the issue will have no impact on the IFFI.
"I do not see any reason why anyone should try and disturb any event in India. It's not a good practice. It's not a good principle," he said.
Replying to question on whether the government is talking to filmmakers who are returning awards, Jaitley wondered "when there is an atmosphere of peace in the country, what is the justification in returning awards".
"There is no justification in returning awards," he asserted, adding that they are selected for awards by people from their profession for their work.
The Finance Minister downplayed film star Shah Rukh Khan's comments after he joined the chorus against "growing intolerance" in the country saying that "religious intolerance and not being secular...Is the worst kind of crime that you can do as a patriot".
Jaitley said, "Nobody is ready to say in this country that there should be intolerance. What is wrong if somebody says that there should be no intolerance in the country."
Jaitley also refused to join issue with former Union minister Arun Shourie, a supporter-turned-critic of Narendra Modi who has attacked both the BJP leaders.
"I do not need to answer any personal comment on me," he said.
The Finance Minister also declined to comment on a question about sulking BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, who said that while Jaitley was responsible for the defeat of BJP in Delhi, Amit Shah has to take responsibility if BJP loses Bihar.
"I need not make a comment on that," Jaitley said.