Lucknow: Amid the controversy over Salman Rushdie's India visit, BJP leader Uma Bharti on Saturday said that the Congress will be looking to exploit the issue to the hilt to win over Muslims voters in Uttar Pradesh.
   
Bharti, who is on a whirlwind tour of Uttar Pradesh, has been attacked by Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh and Pramod Tiwari among others since BJP President Nitin Gadkari announced that she would contest from Charkhari constituency in Mahoba district.
   
Both the parties are now accusing each other of polarizing the elections to win votes.
   
"Salman Rushdie has also made fun of Lord Hanuman in his book The Satanic Verses. If you read the book you will find that he uses satirical language against him.
   
"But we have never said the book should be banned. An author should be allowed his freedom of expression till he does not try to denigrate somebody," Bharti told reporters.
   
The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, who is facing charges in the Babri mosque demolition case, said the Rushdie affair will be used by the Congress in the elections in UP to woo Muslims.
   
"As the Uttar Pradesh elections are on, you never know in what different ways the Congress will exploit Rushdie.
   
"He will be used a tasty dish to be served to Muslims in various forms- with salt and with sugar- to win them over," Bharti said.
   
She maintained that even in the case of celebrated painter M F Hussain, who lived in self-exile till his death recently, her party had never said he should not return to India.
   
Hussain had drawn the ire of Hindu right-wing forces when he painted Hindu goddesses in the nude.
   
The UK-based author, who does not need a visa as he is a Person of Indian Origin (PIO), decided not to visit India citing threat to him from the Mumbai underworld.
     
Bharti said the Congress was making these noises about Rushdie as elections are on in UP and the ruling party at the Centre wants to appease the Muslims.
   
The BJP has already targeted the Congress for announcing 4.5 percent quota to minorities within the 27 percent OBC category.
   
On its part, the Congress has maintained that it has nothing to do with the Rushdie issue and the rules should prevail.

(Agencies)