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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party do not represent Hindu society as a whole, Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Congress leader’s comments came in response to the BJP’s claims that he had, earlier in his speech, accused the entire Hindu community of being “violent”.

Responding to the Motion of Thanks on the president’s address to a joint sitting of Parliament last week, the Rae Bareli MP said in the House on Monday: “India is a country of non-violence, and not of fear. All our great men have spoken about non-violence and overcoming fear.”

Gesturing towards the benches of BJP MPs, Gandhi added: “Those who call themselves Hindus speak all day about violence, hate and untruth.”

The Congress leader’s remarks were protested loudly by members of the Hindutva party.

Gandhi said in response: “You are not Hindus at all. Hinduism says that one should stand with the truth and practice non-violence.”

“Narendra Modi is not the entire Hindu community, and neither are the BJP or the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh],” Gandhi continued, amid shouts of protest from BJP MPs. “This [Hindu religion] is not your personal fiefdom.”

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the parent organisation of the BJP.

Modi responded by claiming that the Leader of Opposition had accused all Hindus of violence and said that this was a “serious matter”. He later added: “Democracy and the Constitution have taught me that I need to take the Leader of Opposition seriously.”

Union home minister Amit Shah also responded to Gandhi. “The Leader of Opposition has categorically said that those who call themselves Hindu engage in violence,” Shah said. “Perhaps he doesn’t know that crores of people proudly call themselves Hindu.”

Shah demanded that Gandhi apologise for his remarks.

The Congress leader also accused the BJP of propagating hatred and violence against Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. “What have minorities done?” Gandhi asked. “They represent India in every sphere and make the country proud. They are patriots who stand with India like a rock.”

Gandhi claimed that ahead of the Lok Sabha election, surveys had been conducted twice to assess Modi’s chances of victory if he contested the polls from Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad constituency.

The seat includes the city of Ayodhya, where Modi had inaugurated the Ram Janmabhoomi temple on January 22.

“The surveyors told him [Modi] not to contest from Ayodhya as the people of Ayodhya would defeat him,” Gandhi alleged. “That is why the prime minister went to Varanasi and managed to escape.”

The BJP’s Lallu Singh lost the Faizabad seat to the Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad by 54,567 votes.

RSS captured education system: Congress chief

In the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that persons associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had captured the country’s education system in the past 10 years.

“The RSS has captured posts of vice chancellors of universities, professors, posts in the NCERT [National Council of Educational Research and Training] and CBSE [Central Board of Secondary Education],” Kharge, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, alleged.

The Congress chief described the Hindutva group’s ideology as being very dangerous for the country and claimed that it did not want to provide education for women and Dalits.

In response, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, asked whether it was a crime to be a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. “It is an organisation, it is serving the nation,” he said. “Its members are contributing to the country.”

Dhankhar said that Kharge’s comments would not be included in the record of the House’s proceedings.

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