‘Rahul Gandhi warned US of Hindu extremist threat’

Rahul Gandhi, widely seen as an Indian prime minister-in-waiting, believes Hindu extremists may be a greater threat to his country than Islamist militants, a leaked US diplomatic cable said Friday.

Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, told US Ambassador Timothy Roemer last year that there was “some support” among Indian Muslims for militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba — blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“However, Gandhi warned, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community,” said the cable released by website WikiLeaks.

The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to respond to the leaked comments, with spokesman Prakash Javdekar accusing Gandhi and his Congress party of bias.

“They don’t know what India is and what the Hindu ethos stands for. To call Hindu groups more dangerous than Lashkar-e-Taiba is the product of a sick mind,” Javdekar told AFP.

In a statement released Friday, Gandhi stressed that “terrorism and communalism of all types” was a threat to India.

“We need to remain vigilant against acts of terrorism of all kinds, no matter who commits them,” he said.

Gandhi stoked a political row in October when he compared a right-wing Hindu group with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, saying both preached hardline fundamentalist ideologies.

Gandhi has long been viewed as a premier-in-waiting, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hinted to reporters in May that he could one day step down in favour of the 40-year-old politician.

After India’s independence from Britain in 1947, power in Congress passed from Gandhi’s great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, to his grandmother Indira Gandhi and later to his father Rajiv — all of whom were prime ministers.

It now rests with his Italian-born mother Sonia, the party president and seen as India’s most influential politician.