The ruling Trinamool Congress and Opposition Congress and CPM in West Bengal on Friday criticised BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya for calling the eating habits of the construction workers employed at his residence as "strange" and doubting their nationality based on it.
On Thursday, Vijayvargiya, who is the BJP's national general secretary, said he suspected that there were some "Bangladeshi workers" among the construction labourers working at his house on the basis of their "strange eating habits".
"There was some construction work going at my house, so I noticed that some workers were eating only 'poha' (flattened rice). After speaking to them I realised they could not speak Hindi. I was later told that they are Bengali and when I asked them from which districts they belong to, they could not answer me," the leader said at a conference in Indore.
Vijayvargiya also said that he spoke to their supervisor and the building contractor, which "strengthened his suspicion" of these workers being from Bangladesh. "You will be shocked to know that for more than one year, one Bangladeshi terrorist was working right in front of me. People from other countries are coming here and are trying to create a terror environment. For us, the country comes first," he added.
The Mamata Banerjee-led party slammed Vijayvargiya and said that his comments were a reflection of the "racist and communal" mindset of the present BJP dispensation at the Centre. Senior TMC leader and state minister Tapas Roy said that statements also showed the saffron party's "anti-Bengali" thinking.
"We all know that BJP is an anti-Bengali party. Such communal statements only reflect that mindset. BJP and its leaders don't know anything about Bengal, its culture and eating habits and are dreaming of ruling Bengal. They would get a befitting reply for insulting Bengalis," he said.
Roy's view was echoed by CPM politburo member Mohammed Salim, who alleged that BJP is trying to do racial profiling of the country.
"Just because someone is not eating roti does not make him a Bangladeshi. Poha, which is known as chirey in this part of the country, is a staple diet and is very popular as a breakfast food. What is BJP trying to do? They are trying to racially profile the country on the basis of dress code, eating habits and lifestyle," Salim said.
He also said Vijayvargiya's comments are "just an extension" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remark that those indulging in violence over the citizenship law could be identified by their attire.
Modi, while addressing a rally in Jharkhand in December had said people who had set ablaze property during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests "can be identified by the clothes they wore".
Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also criticised Vijayvragiya and said his comments are an "insult to the people of West Bengal".
Taking a dig at Vijayvargiya, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted that labourers should only eat "halwa" as then only will they be called "Bharat ka shehri" (citizens of India).
Labourers should not have Poha but only HALWA & HALWA & will be called Indian ,Bharat ka Shehri otherwise B.......... hope "9pm Nationalist" will not take offence https://t.co/G47CyoC4L7
" Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) January 24, 2020
Some Twitter users linked Owaisi's 'halwa' jibe with the recent customary 'halwa ceremony' held at the Finance Ministry before the printing of the Union Budget starts.
Owaisi had on Tuesday questioned the tradition, citing the Arabic origin of the sweet delicacy's name.
"Halwa is an Arabic word and not a word of either Hindi or Urdu. Now you have become Arab. They should shun halwa word as it is an Arabic word. You have seen the finance minister saying hello to halwa. There is nothing wrong with this. But they say they will change names," he had said while speaking at a gathering in Telangana's Karimnagar.
The BJP leader is also facing flak on social media for his comments.
"If eating poha is the criteria, my dad will be an illegal immigrant every day," Teju, a Twitter user wrote.
"I did not know that I was eating Bangladeshi food for the whole of my life. Kanda poha is one of the favourite breakfasts of Maharashtra. Kanda poha is a precondition of marriage," another Twitter user wrote.
My dhobi showed up eating a burger. I think he's American.
" Kajol Srinivasan (@LOLrakshak) January 24, 2020
With inputs from agencies
Poha eaters = Bangladeshis
Ab lack of kaagaz nahin, poha will be your undoing 😐 https://t.co/Qbz85Ws5k9
" Poulomi Saha (@PoulomiMSaha) January 24, 2020
BJP's Kailash Vijayvargiya has said Poha is a Bangladeshi dish, so I want to know which nationality the following food items represent:
1) Mango 2) Paneer 3) Khichdi 4) Mushroom 5) Khakhra
It's clearly an existential question for a lot of people now. Pls help.
" Meghnad (@Memeghnad) January 24, 2020
Thank God ! my husband eats Upma not #Poha . 😜
" Meenakshi Joshi (@IMinakshiJoshi) January 24, 2020
Poha is one of my favorite breakfast options. No wonder it is anti - national !
What is next?
" Pankhuri Pathak Ù¾ÙÚ©Ú¾Ú'Û (@pankhuripathak) January 24, 2020