Minister of state for micro, small and medium industries Giriraj Singh is in trouble.
Last in the news for saying in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, that Modi critics should go to Pakistan, Singh's faux pas this time around may just cost him.
The BJP powers that be are very unhappy with him, particularly over the manner in which he chose to vent his rather crude opinions about Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, in the presence of some journalists - even if it was an informal off-the-record chat.
Giriraj Singh is now probably cursing the moment he got drawn into the 'informal' conversation with some reporters, when he came out with his pearls of wisdom.
It so happened that on Wednesday morning Singh had set out from Patna for a programme in Vaishali, around 60-70 kilometers away from the Bihar state Capital. After finishing with his official engagements, he had stopped at Hajipur to relax and interact with party workers.
When he landed at the circuit house, he had decided to hold a press conference to hit out against Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. After the formal on-record briefing was over and snacks and tea consumed, some reporters had sat with him for a casual informal chat.
Interestingly as the conversation began, Giriraj sounded a request cum warning: “switch off all your cameras and other recording devices. It’s a totally informal chat, not to be quoted, not to be printed or broadcast.” He also went on to add that this was a 'season of stings' and he would not like to be stung like Arvind Kejriwal.
Giriraj was naïve enough to believe that his words would be taken as a command. Little did he realise that at least one of them had kept his camera running. It’s a different matter though that the minister was assured that his “trust would not be breached at any cost”.
The minister then loosened up and committed a cardinal mistake – which was making a racist, sexist remark against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. "If Rajiv Gandhi would have married a Nigerian and Sonia Gnadhi wasn't white-skinned, would Congress have accepted her?”
He also slammed a “missing” Rahul Gandhi, likening his disappearance to that of Malaysian plane MH370. "If Congress had been in power instead of us and Rahul Gandhi was the Prime Minister and then, if for some reason, he had disappeared for 43-47 days, what would have happened?”
The Congress is naturally outraged. Various women and civil rights groups have also voiced their protest.
The BJP is finding it hard to defend Giriraj. His statement on Rahul was taken to be in order, but linking Sonia’s elevation with a racist stance is deeply embarrassing for the party. He was initially left to fend for himself. He issued a clarification but that of was no consequence.
The BJP has already learned its lessons from the 2004 elections when it paid heavily for attacking Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origins. The Congress had won and BJP had lost. In 2014, although Modi aggressively targeted both her and Rahul Gandhi, it was about their style of functioning rather than anything else.
Giriraj's unfortunate choice of words, in which he also mentioned Nigeria and the colour of its people, has taken the controversy to a whole different level. Giriraj is a union minister and as such the controversy could spark off a completely unwarranted diplomatic row.
Ahead of the budget session, Modi had sent Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu to meet Sonia Gandhi at her residence 10 Janpath and persuade her to support the government on critical bills. Though that didn’t happen in the first half of the budget session, the BJP wants to give out the impression that it is willing to engage with the Congress.
Giriraj’s comments hit the Congress where it hurts most. The party is already on the warpath, and this is sure to have ramifications on the second half of the budget session.
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Updated Date: Apr 02, 2015 10:42:08 IST