In an apparent bid to scotch rumours of a major rift in the Central government, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and BJP president Amit Shah on Wednesday came out in strong defence of Home Minister Rajnath Singh by dismissing reports of his son’s inappropriate conduct as baseless.
Minutes before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office issued a statement, Singh told reporters outside his North Block office: “If charges against any family member are proven, I will quit politics and sit at home.”
The home minister decided to quell the buzz in the corridors of power for more than a fortnight now, as latest reports hinted at Singh holding another senior minister responsible for spreading unverified stories that his son was recently ticked off by Modi for inappropriate political behaviour. The reports also said that Singh took up the matter with Modi and Shah, which was confirmed by the former.
The PMO rubbished the reports, describing them as “plain lies, motivated and constituting a malicious attempt at character assassination and tarnishing the image of the government”. Sending out a strong message that rumour-mongering would not be tolerated by the NDA government, the PMO clarification stated that “those indulging in such rumour-mongering are damaging the interest of the nation”.
Amit Shah, following Modi’s line, openly denounced the reports. “Rajnath Singh’s political life is an example of decency, dignity and honesty. Any allegations against him are baseless and instigated by an intent to tarnish the image of the party. I condemn it strongly. I feel personally hurt by the incident,” Shah said in a party release.
The BJP chief accused a section of the media of targeting Union ministers through “unfounded and baseless reports”.
He requested them to abandon such attempts since similar rumours were making the rounds, some of them even reaching gossip columns of newspapers, about other ministers being pulled up by the PM for different acts of ommission ranging from not turning up in formal attire, to courting businessmen.
Since coming to power in May, this is the second reported attempt which betrayed a deep rift within the BJP.
Early on, Union Road and surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s house was reportedly bugged, which set tongues wagging in political circles and in the government though an official denial was promptly issued. Curiously, both Rajnath and Gadkari are senior leaders and part of Modi’s core team.
The buzz about Singh first emanated a few weeks ago after a gossip item appeared in an English newspaper, which was followed by a column in another newspaper, and finally a pink daily on Wednesday reporting that a miffed Singh had initiated steps to call the reports a bluff.
In a brief statement to the media, Singh said, “In the last 15-20 days, there have been continuous rumours about me and my family. I thought rumours have no basis and they will end soon.
But the rumours are gaining momentum day-after-day. I want to assure the nation that the day the allegations, prima facie or otherwise, are proved against me or my family, I will quit politics and public life and sit at home”.
On who could be spreading the rumours, the minister said it was for investigative journalists to dig out.