New Delhi: On a day when lawmakers from the country’s principal opposition party petitioned the President on what they called “a sinister campaign" by forces close to the government to create social tensions, government functionaries asserted there was no intolerance in the country, as alleged, and that it was the opposition party that was in fact guilty of the charge.

Congress lawmakers, led by party president Sonia Gandhi, on Tuesday marched from the Parliament house complex to the President’s house to submit a memorandum and urged him to use his “moral authority".

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads an alliance governing the centre, meanwhile, questioned the sincerity of the protests.

Earlier in the day, finance minister Arun Jaitley defended the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), arguing that there was no intolerance in the country, and the country had never been intolerant. “There is an atmosphere of harmony. This country has never been intolerant and will never be intolerant," Jaitley told reporters in the national capital.

The minister pointed out that political opponents must fight the political battle politically and stressed that the incidents had taken place in states ruled by opposition parties which should not be linked to the centre.

“Where is the intolerance? We are the most vibrant democracy. The atmosphere will not change only by talking. If some incident happens like the one in Karnataka, which is Congress-ruled, you cannot link it to the central government to attack. That is not fair. This is a crime and action should be taken against whoever commits crime, that is why people in the mainstream in the country have opposed it," Jaitley added.

After the evening march to Rashtrapati Bhawan, Sonia Gandhi spoke to reporters.

“We have expressed serious concerns about the situation of fear, intolerance and threat that has been created. The unfortunate incidents happening in the country are a part of a well-thought conspiracy, which has been deliberately created to divide the society," she said.

“The heart of the problem is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is simply not tolerant," said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who also participated in the march. “It is not a matter of the Congress party, it is a matter of the people of this country... If the finance minister is under the impression that nothing is going wrong, then may be he should visit the villages to see what is going on," he said.

Several senior leaders of the Congress party, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, met President Pranab Mukherjee.

“The prime minister’s silence and inaction has only conveyed the impression that he condones all that has been happening. We would like to humbly request the Honourable Rashtrapatiji to use the political and moral authority of his office to impress upon the prime minister that this is unacceptable," stated the memorandum.

Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu dismissed the protests as a case of “politically displaced persons" challenging the democratic mandate.

“It (the Congress) is leading nowhere, as they have lost people’s confidence, are desperate and are trying to stay relevant with such dramatic actions," he told PTI, adding “political intolerance is a genetic trait of the Congress".

Bidyut Chakrabarty, a political science professor at Delhi University, said: “There is a political battle going on. It is true that there is commotion in the country over violence in Dadri, writers and artists giving back awards and the Congress is trying to take advantage of the situation."

PTI contributed to this story.

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