"His (Rahul Gandhi's) intention was not to malign any community. But it was blown out of proportion by the media and Congress adversaries," Jairam Ramesh said during interaction with reporters from the Urdu media at the Islamic Cultural Centre in the national capital.

The Congress vice president had made the remarks at an election rally and was referring to Muslim youth affected by the violence in September this year in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh.

Minority Affairs Minister K Rehman Khan and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla were also were present at the event.

The minister said Rahul Gandhi is secular to the core and that no one can doubt his credentials in the matter.

"He is genuinely concerned about minorities, weaker sections, Dalits and deprived classes." Ramesh said.

He added that secularism in the country faces challenges from divisive forces and warned that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was out to turn the country into a Hindutva Rashtra.

Ramesh said that the BJP was trying to make the elections a matter between clashing personalities and said India is a parliamentary democracy not a presidential one where two people fight it out for the top post.

The minister reminded reporters that regional parties too had a role to play in deciding who would come to power. He said that while the Bharatiya Janata party was largely confined to India's cowbelt, the Congress had a pan-nation base.

Ramesh said that there should not be double standards in the distribution of relief.

He said that whether communal violence or natural disaster, those affected should get relief. He said the centre had released Rs.250 crore to Assam for riot-affected people, but Uttar Pradesh had not approached the centre with a request for relief to the violence-affected people of Muzaffarnagar.

K Rehman Khan said the Uttar Pradesh government had implemented almost all recommendations of the Sachar Committee for the uplift of minorities. He admitted, however, that there were lapses in implementation of schemes for minorities, which have been corrected.

Congress distances itself from Ramesh's remark

Congress on Sunday distanced itself from the comment of Jairam Ramesh, on the controversy sparked by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi's remarks on ISI getting in touch with Muzaffarnagar riot-hit youth.

Party spokesperson Meem Afzal said Gandhi has already clarified his statement in reply to the Election Commission (EC) and the party has also spoken about the issue.

"I do not know what Jairam Ramesh has said. But whatever he might have said may be his personal view. This is not the view of the party," Afzal said.

On Saturday, senior Urdu journalists had conveyed to Ramesh that the community was hurt by Gandhi's remarks and suggested that the Congress vice-president should apologise. In response, Ramesh had acknowledged the controversy created by the remarks and said what they have suggested may be considered.

Taking a dig at Ramesh's comments the BJP said it has to be seen whether Rahul will apologise to Muslim community or the former will apologise to his party leader. BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said Gandhi had hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community and should have apologised to them by now.

(JPN/Agencies)

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