To Sushma Swaraj Request for Support, A Polite ‘No’ And A Barb From Assam

NEW DELHI:  For the three years that she has been foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj has steered clear of making political statements and used her Twitter handle to speak on India’s foreign policy or help Indians stranded across the world who send her SOS messages. This week, she appeared to make an exception. Or was it in jest.

Either ways, she provoked a strong reaction on social media after she posted her reply to a ‘thank you’ message from a lawmaker from Assam, Badruddin Ajmal for the Narendra Modi’s government vote at the United Nations against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Thank you Ajmal Sahib. Now you vote for us,” Ms Swaraj, who is among the most-followed Union Minister in PM Modi’s team, tweeted in response.

Mr Ajmal, the perfume baron in Assam, who launched his political party, All India United Democratic Front, or AIUDF, in 2005, has 3 seats in the Lok Sabha and won 13 seats in last year’s state elections.

Ms Swaraj’s tweet drew sharp reactions.

A section which seemed to favour stronger ties with Israel wondered if the BJP had sided against Israel at UN for votes back home and saw a reflection of the minority appeasement charge that is levelled by the BJP at the Congress. Others who preferred status quo or tilted towards Palestine’s cause, asked the government to do more for minorities before expecting their support.

Rumours also started swirling about the possibility of a tie-up between the two parties. The Congress has, in the past, accused the BJP and the AIUDF of pitting hindus and muslims against each other by polarising election campaigns.

Mr Ajmal told NDTV that he was surprised at the Union Minister’s suggestion.

“I am grateful to the BJP for seeking our support but there is no question of supporting the BJP ever. The present situation has become so communally polarized. We can’t be party to a government like this… We have fought the BJP in Assam and won”, he said.

The 67-year-old, counted among India’s richest lawmakers, said he didn’t expect that his ‘thank you’ note would be met with a request to support the Modi government. “Anyways, I am saying thank you but my party can’t support you,” he told NDTV.

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