New Delhi: The Congress on Thursday said the decision to suspend Kirti Azad was a classic case of "crushing the whistleblower" as the party seized on what it saw as a potent political weapon to expose the BJP's approach towards corruption.
"Narendra Modi came with a promise of good governance. That didn't happen. We hoped for a credible and purposeful action in the case of financial immorality in the DDCA but they crushed the whistleblower instead," Congress spokesperson Ashwini Kumar told a news conference.
"Is silencing the crusader against corruption the new definition of achchhe din?" he wondered.
The party's official line - a day after the BJP suspended the cricketer-turned-MP from Bihar for "anti-party activities" following his sustained attack on Arun Jaitley over alleged corruption in the Delhi cricket association when the finance minister helmed the DDCA - flowed from Rahul Gandhi's reaction this morning in Amethi.
"There were several scams but Modiji remained silent. His MP said there is corruption in the DDCA. An inquiry was called for. But the MP was suspended. Modi used to say, ' Na khaoonga, na khane dunga' (I will not accept bribes, nor let anyone else do so). Now he is silent," the Congress vice-president said, responding to queries.
"Modiji is the Prime Minister of India," Rahul added. "He should not break the trust of the country. He hould take action, at least order an inquiry."
Party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul had earlier cleared a tough stand on Jaitley in Parliament to press for his resignation as finance minister, recharged by the DDCA allegations after the National Herald case came as an embarrassment for the Gandhis.
Today, the party reiterated that political morality required the finance minister to step aside as long as the case was being investigated. "Guilt would be decided by the court but political morality and our democratic tradition suggest Jaitley should step down for a fair probe," Kumar said.
"Those holding high offices should honour their words and we have heard this sermon so many times in the last five years that Caesar's wife should be above suspicion."
The allusion was to BJP leaders who had often taunted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the coal and 2G controversies broke.
Pointing to the "stark difference" in the Prime Minister's words and deeds, Kumar said: "Modi compared Jaitley with (L.K.) Advani. Will he expect the same standard of moral rectitude from Jaitley as Advani had resigned when his name was dragged into the hawala case? The country is totally perplexed now as action is being taken against those who are fighting against corruption."
Modi had broken his silence on Jaitley at a BJP parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday. An official had quoted him as saying that just as Advani had emerged "pure" from the hawala money-laundering case, the finance minister would come out of the DDCA controversy "spotlessly clean".
Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala referred to several controversies, including the one involving former cricket administrator Lalit Modi that had embroiled both foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan's BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and the Vyapam scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh to question the party's stand.
"While people charged with corruption... are sheltered by the Prime Minister, complainants against corruption are suspended. Is this what probity and accountability in public life is all about?" Surjewala said.
"Azad's suspension is nothing but a manifestation of the corruption-philia that grips the BJP. It is yet another statement on Modi and (BJP chief) Amit Shah's style of functioning that is nothing but 'My way or highway'," Surjewala added.