The proposed "Mahagathbandhan" (grand alliance) against the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls looks like a "band, baja, baraat" without a groom, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said. There would be no vacancy for the prime minister's post in 2019, the senior BJP leader said.
"The 'Mahagathbandhan' is like the 'band, baja, baraat' are ready but the groom is absent. There are nearly two dozen candidates who are staking claim for the post of prime minister," he said.
Several parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), along with other outfits, are planning to form a front to counter the BJP in the 2019 general election.
Mr Naqvi took a dig at the Congress for projecting Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate after the recent extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting and later withdrawing his name, apparently due to reservations expressed by other parties.
"The Congress first announced that its prime ministerial candidate was Rahul Gandhi. However, within 12 hours, they withdrew it. This could be the first such incident, wherein the Congress withdrew it (Rahul Gandhi's name) within 12 hours. It was withdrawal even before nomination. This is how the 'Mahagathbandhan' looks like," the minority affairs minister said.
Mr Naqvi also sought to blame the Congress over Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's recent emotional outburst, when the JD(S) leader said he was swallowing the pains of running a coalition government like Lord Shiva, who had drunk poison.
The JD(S) shares power with the Congress in the southern state.
"The country has seen (HD) Kumaraswamy's statement and the people know that he is sharing power with the Congress," Mr Naqvi said.
He dubbed Rahul Gandhi's speech in Parliament during the no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government as one full of "confusion, contradiction and comedy".
"He (Rahul Gandhi) has become a mixture of these three aspects. He himself has dented his own image, instead of projecting himself as a serious politician or public figure. Our wishes are with the Congress under his leadership," Mr Naqvi said.
In an unprecedented gesture, the Congress chief had hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha after the speech. Gandhi was later seen winking at a party colleague after coming back to his seat.
Responding to a query, the minister said there was no permanent friendship or disappointment in politics.
"The BJP has not put up a no-entry board," he said, responding to criticism of the party by the TDP, a former NDA constituent, and the Shiv Sena.
Mr Naqvi said incidents of mob kiling should not be given a communal colour.
"Lynching is a heinous crime. Unfortunately, when such things get politicised, a criminal incident is made to look like a communal incident...then criminals involved in such acts get a social shield," he added.
"We believe that a crime is a crime. Do not mix crime with communalism and do not project such heinous crimes as a communal thing. There is a criminal mindset behind it...crimes do not have a religion or caste," Mr Naqvi said, deprecating the efforts of certain sections to project such incidents as a crime against a minority community.
Asked why lynching over cows would not qualify as an organised crime as most of the victims belonged to a particular community, while the attackers were from the majority community, the minister said he did not think it was an organised crime.
"These people (perpetrators of such incidents) have a criminal mindset. When such incidents take place, it is not that only one particular community is involved. It is not that only Hindus are behind it. Whatever it is, a crime is a crime. I cannot see it linked to a community," he said.
Advocating a tough law to curb such incidents if needed, Mr Naqvi said things that divided the society should not happen.
"Even the Muslim community has understood that (Narendra) Modi is the name of development," he said.
Dubbing "triple talaq" as a "bad tradition", Mr Naqvi said at least 1,000 such cases were reported to various agencies in the country, even after a Supreme Court verdict held the practice unconstitutional.
The supreme court had last year ruled that the practice of triple talaq followed by Muslim men was unconstitutional and void.
"We will mostly pass the legislations concerning triple talaq in this (Monsoon) session (of Parliament)," Mr Naqvi said.
The "triple talaq" bill, which proposes to criminalise the practice, has been passed in the Lok Sabha, where the BJP enjoys a majority, but is pending in the Rajya Sabha.