Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today said there was “no ideological shift” when he left the Congress for the BJP, and insisted that he had “wasted 22 years of my life in the Congress”.
“In the Congress, we used to worship a family. In BJP, we worship the country,” he said in an interview to NDTV. Once a Congress minister in Assam, he left in 2015 and has since gone on to serve as minister and now Chief Minister.
Sticking to the BJP line, he justified a number of Hindutva theories on riots and other crimes, including an a “love jihad” spin to the alleged murder of a Hindu woman, Shraddha Walkar, by her Muslim boyfriend, Aaftab Poonawala, in Delhi.
Asked on what basis he could draw a conclusion when similar crimes have been reported within all communities, he insisted, “The time has come for us to define legally what is ‘love jihad’,” and claimed, “We have many evidence in our state.”
He also sought to put the onus of communal riots on a specific community – making thinly veiled references to Muslims – while saying, “Hindu normally do not indulge in riots.”
On specific cases, such as court verdicts in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and involvement of people across communities, he said, “I said ‘normally’ Hindus do not do riots. Hindus are a peace-loving community.”
On whether he could be making the same points if he were still with the Congress, he resorted to rhetoric, “What is the ideological shift? I have said ‘Hindus are peace-loving’ – will the Congress disagree?”
Mr Sarma last month said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi looks like “Saddam Hussein”, the former Iraqi dictator, and it would have been better had he turned his appearance like Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi.
Mr Gandhi has been keeping a long beard during his Bharat Jodo Yatra. The “Saddam Hussein” comment by Mr Sarma was seen as a dig at Mr Gandhi and his party for what the BJP always claimed as Muslim appeasement politics.