"It reflects the dictatorial DNA of Congress. Congress is democratic only when it has a comfortable majority. The moment it sees its inevitable defeat, it goes back to its basic DNA of dictatorship. This is what precisely happened in 1975," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar. (Agencies)
He said the outburst shows the panic in Congress over the groundswell of support for Narendra Modi-led BJP. "The writing on the wall is clear. Therefore, Congress is now threatening the media," he said.
Shinde had sparked a controversy on Sunday by allegedly threatening to "crush" the electronic media after accusing a section of it of unnecessarily provoking the Congress by engaging in "false propaganda" against the party.
But the ruling party on Tuesday tried to play down the issue and said it had never attempted to run down the media. Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari contended that it had never been the intention of his party to muzzle the freedom of press.
"Let me unequivocally... place it on record that over the past 10 years, whatever the criticism fair, unfair, charitable, uncharitable, at times completely malicious, we have never tried to either run the media down or shoot the messenger," he said.
Meanwhile, attacking Shinde, BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the alleged remarks were unbecoming of someone who held a position of responsibility in the government. "I condemn it very strongly... You are the Home Minister of India, you are sitting on a responsible chair. How can you talk like this? Freedom of the press is integral to democracy. We are proud of Indian media," he said.
Talking about the Emergency and the JP movement, Javadekar said, "Basic DNA of Congress prevailed and 'Emergency' was imposed (in 1975), thereby snatching away the freedom of expression of the press and the people."
CPI leader D Raja said Shinde's remarks were "not acceptable". "If media supports (them), they are happy, if media criticizes, they are unhappy. There must be a balanced, objective and unbiased coverage, but it does not mean one should accuse and threaten media. That is not acceptable," he said.
While defending Congress, Tiwari, however, said that there is a need for the media to introspect as to "where Indian democracy is headed.... The fundamental freedoms, which the country holds very dear, are today under threat".
AAP, too, joined the attack on Congress over Shinde's remarks. Party leader Ashutosh, a former journalist, lashed out at the Home Minister, saying the "media cannot be crushed and nor can anyone dare crush it".
However, he raised concerns over the way the media was being "manipulated". Accusing the BJP of putting pressure on media houses, he said that, "as a former member of Broadcast Editors Association, I request they should come forward and gather information from those media houses whose editors are being pressurized by Modi".
"It reflects the dictatorial DNA of Congress. Congress is democratic only when it has a comfortable majority. The moment it sees its inevitable defeat, it goes back to its basic DNA of dictatorship. This is what precisely happened in 1975," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.