New Delhi: The BJP on Sunday distanced itself from Ram Madhav's 'Akhand Bharat' remarks, clarifying though the leader was entitled to his views, for the party and government India and Pakistan were two sovereign nations.
The BJP general secretary's remark, however, provoked stinging barbs from Congress, which said the saffron party will require a "heart transplant" to achieve the goal, while CPI-M dubbed Madhav's utterances on 'Akhand Bharat' as "surest way" of derailing the dialogue with Pakistan.
Responding to a series of questions on the issue, BJP spokesperson M J Akbar recalled the speech of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivered in Lahore in 1999 wherein he had said India and Pakistan negotiate as sovereign nations. "And that fact is a fact," he said.
When asked as to why an important general secretary made these remarks when the stand of the party and the government are clear, he said Madhav "was answering a particular question ...He has a right to his own views, but the government's position requires no clarification."
Congress termed Madhav's idea of United India, which would include the present day Pakistan and Bangladesh, as "brilliant" but said for that BJP needed to have a "large heart".
"It's a brilliant idea. It should happen. He talked about it in future terms, but presently a grim situation is going on in the country. The economy is in bad shape and security of women, the dalits, the minorities....These are things which need to be addressed and you have a problem with minorities in India," Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said.
"The thought process is good, but the 'karma' (action) they have been practising in India needs to be restrained. The word intolerance must move out of our dictionaries. Just going to birthday party of the counterpart of Pakistan does not mean that you have given up intolerance.
"It (intolerance) by motormouths has to stop. If you are thinking in terms of 'Akhand Bharat' then you need to have a large heart, and (for that) it (BJP) needs a heart transplant," Vadakkan said.
CPI called Madhav's comments as "highly provocative and deplorable".
"Ram Madhav's comments are highly provocative and deplorable...It is the surest way to derail any effort for a dialogue with Pakistan," senior party leader D Raja said, adding both Madhav and RSS should acknowledge the reality that today India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are sovereign nations.
He also demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP clarify their stand on 'Akhand Bharat'.
Madhav had recently said RSS believes that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will one day reunite again not by war but through "popular goodwill".
"The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) still believes that one day these parts, which have for historical reasons separated only 60 years ago, will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created," he told Doha-based Al Jazeera TV channel, adding "as an RSS member, I also hold on to that view."
Though the interview was recorded earlier, its broadcast coincided with the surprise visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lahore to meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday.