A day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah challenged opposition parties for an open debate on Citizenship (Amendment) Act, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav picked up the gauntlet, saying that he was ready for a debate with Bharatiya Janata Party leaders on the CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens).
Akhilesh, however, maintained that the BJP should also debate on issues like economic slowdown, unemployment, poverty and death of people due to demonetisation and government harassment.
“I challenge the BJP for a debate on development and ask them to fix a place or a forum with their favourite channels and anchors. We samajwadis are ready for it. Why did they not want a debate on the state of economy and demonetisation. Since the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh, it has failed to protect farmers,” the SP chief said.
Addressing a gathering on the death anniversary of socialist leader Janeshwar Mishra, also known as ‘Chhote Lohia’, at a park named after him in the state capital on Wednesday, Akhilesh alleged that the BJP government had violated the basic structure of the Constitution by the CAA.
Accusing the BJP of discriminating on the basis of religion, the SP chief said, “Those who understand the soul of the country are opposed to the new citizenship law. The BJP is playing with the Constitution as it has a majority in the Lok Sabha. As far as the CAA is concerned, not only the Samajwadi Party but all those who understand the soul of the country are opposing it.”
“I am glad that women have taken the lead and youth are protesting in large numbers but the BJP is trying to suppress their voice. Democracy will be strengthened by the voice of the people,” he said.
“Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar were against discrimination. But the ruling BJP is doing just that,” Akhilesh alleged.
Accusing Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of using words like ‘thok diya jayega’ in speeches, the SP chief said, “This cannot be the language of a politician”.
On former BJP chief Amit Shah advising him to remain silent, Akhilesh said, “They don’t need top officers. Direct a constable, ask him to put ‘ganja’ (cannabis) in my pocket and send me to jail.”
The SP leader said this referring to the case of a Kushinagar-based painter who was allegedly sent to jail in a similar way by the police.
The SP chief alleged that Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of custodial deaths, fake encounters and notices from National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
On being asked about allegations that the SP was speaking the language of India’s enemies, Akhilesh said, “I have never met (Pakistan Prime Minister) Imran Khan. If you talk about Pakistan, I want to tell that we samajwadis are Bharatiya.”
Asked about the BJP’s allegations that money was being paid to women protesting against the CAA, the SP chief said, “The BJP men used to spend money to bring crowds to their rallies. Those who have gathered to protest against the CAA came on their own.”