New Delhi: As a controversy raged over Congress leader Shashi Tharoor's remark that a Hindu Pakistan would be created if the BJP returned to power, the Congress on Thursday advised him and its leaders to "exercise restraint, caution and choose their words and statements wisely."
The party also said that it favours a "pluralistic, multi-religious and multi-linguistic society".
"Irrespective of the government which comes to power, Indian democracy will never allow India to become Pakistan. Today, India is far ahead of Pakistan, and in this, Congress party has a very valuable contribution," said Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill.
"The Congress advises its leaders and workers to exercise restraint and choose words wisely, and must remember that our party stands for a pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-faith society," he said.
Shergill hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he never apologised for "objectionable remarks" made by several BJP leaders. "Such remarks come on a daily basis. The fact is the BJP has thanked Pakistan for elections in Jammu and Kashmir, and a BJP minister has garlanded criminals. They (BJP activists) rejoice in victory of criminals. All this has eroded our Constitutional values," he added.
Another party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: "The Modi government has thrived on an atmosphere of bigotry, hatred, intolerance and polarisation. All Congress leaders must realise the historic responsibility bestowed upon us while choosing words and phraseology to reject BJP's agenda."
Tharoor's remarks came at an event "Threats faced by Indian Democracy and Secularism" in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. He said: "The great danger is that if they (BJP) are able to win a repeat of their current strength in the Lok Sabha, then frankly our democratic constitution as we understand it will not survive because they will have all the elements they need to tear up the Constitution and write a new one."
"That will be a new one which will enshrine the principle of Hindu Rashtra and will remove equality for minorities. That will create a Hindu Pakistan," said Tharoor.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP, however, has refused to retract, saying the BJP-RSS idea of a Hindu Rashtra remained the mirror image of the neighbouring "intolerant theocratic state."