He referred to Owaisi’s speeches in Hyderabad and that of Praveen Togadia in Maharashtra as a joint strategy to attract “mutually exclusive vote banks” and said that the two were “working in tandem”. Owaisi is currently in custody facing charges for an anti-Hindu speech in Adilabad.
The remark led to confusion among the Congress party ranks as no one came to the defence of the veteran leader. Various senior Congress leaders evaded the subject. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari conveniently distanced himself and the Congress party from the statement, by saying: “It is his personal opinion and the party has nothing to do with it.”
Getting little support from his party members, Digvijay Singh later called up another press conference. He was dissatisfied with the interpretation of his remarks. He maintained that his statements were “misinterpreted” and presented “out of context” by the media. However, after “consultation” with Abhijit Mukherjee, he decided to use his Right to Retract. “If others have the Right to React, I have the Right to Retract,” he said before finally withdrawing the statements. He offered an “unconditional apology” admitting that his words had hurt the sentiments of the people of Adilabad, Owaisi’s constituency. Abhijit Mukherjee later confirmed, “Oh yes, it was the video clip of my interaction with Almighty Arnab Goswami that inspired Digvijay to take a quick decision.”
But in the classic “once bitten, twice shy” way, Digvijay did no such thing as calling Praveen Togadia an RSS agent for the hate speech that the latter delivered in response to Owaisi’s speech. According to sources, he was last seen at his house watching Arnab’s said clip on loop on YouTube and mouthing the words, “No One is an RSS agent” and “I have already apologized and taken back my statements” alternatively.
Meanwhile, similar implementations of Right to Retract are being done elsewhere too. Akbaruddin Owaisi’s lawyer has sought to withdraw the controversial hate speech on his behalf, pleading before the court that Owaisi, being a dignified MLA, should be allowed to “withdraw statements at will”, like Abhijit Mukherjee.
Though the matter is presently sub judice, the “Right to Withdraw Statements” has found support from various sections of the political spectrum. A senior Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, told our reporter that such a right is necessary, as it is merely an “extension of Freedom of Speech”. “Allowing the retraction of statements is an essential step towards public welfare. You see, since these statements are made to get one set of votes, the retractions are also necessary to recover the other set of votes!”
Taking a dig at Digvijay, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that his statements were not taken seriously by his own party and called the entire episode an embarrassment for the Congress party leadership. He further accused the UPA of having “badmouthed” leaders in the party and reinforced their demand for resignation of the Prime Minister on moral grounds.
This story has been written by Ravi Aswani and edited by Ateendriya. Ravi and Ateendriya are interning with News That Matters Not in our Youth Internship-and-Training Progam 2013.