Prez's third alert prompts Modi govt to react

Engage in debate and not vandalism, appeals Jaitley

Prez's third alert prompts Modi govt to react

After President Pranab Mukherjee reiterated his concern over growing intolerance in the country for the third time on Tuesday, the Modi Government broke its silence on the recent debate on communal violence.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked people to engage in “debate” and not “vandalism”.

Jaitley’s appeal for “calm” and “restraint” was also seen as an attack on NDA ally Shiv Sena, which is opposed to resuming bilateral ties with Pakistan.

"Issues like relations with neighbouring countries will have to be conducted on the basis of a very well-thought out strategy. They can't be conducted on the streets itself. That can't decide how we deal with our neighbouring countries. And therefore, I think it is extremely important that every political party, including my friends in the Shiv Sena, realise the importance of this," the minister said at a media conference here.

He called “all right-thinking sections” to distance themselves from such methodologies. Jaitley distanced the BJP from such violent instrument of communication but accepted that a few leaders have been making irresponsible statements on sensitive issues, creating an atmosphere vulnerable to communal flare-ups.

In his message on the eve of Durga Puja, President Pranab Mukherjee, who is in his native place in West Bengal, re-emphasised his Monday’s statement on virtues of tolerance and accepting dissent. “May this festival strengthen the moral foundations of our society and turn us away from all that divides and destroys,” Mukherjee wished.

The BJP did not react to Mukherjee’s latest comment, with spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi stopping at, “what the President says is supreme”.

Countering Opposition charge that the ruling establishment’s silence has emboldened right wing forces, Jaitley without taking names noted that party president Amit Shah had pulled up motormouths (Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, MP Shakshi Maharaj and Sangeet Som) and that PM Narendra Modi had publicly conveyed his views on the issue.

"You see, after the Prime Minister's comment, the President (Amit Shah) had called three gentlemen. He has very firmly told them that their statements are not appreciated by the party. They have been put on notice. I am sure that they have corrected themselves," he said.

Given that such incidents have attracted adverse global attention, Jaitley advocated those using aggressive methods must also "introspect" whether they are adding to the “quality of Indian democracy” or “reducing” the country’s “credibility” before the world.

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