Rahul on 1984 Sikh riots, RSS-Islamic State comparison, joblessness in India: Congress in damage-control mode as BJP mounts attack

Rahul Gandhi's visit to United Kingdom has garnered a lot of attention, and created a lot of noise back here in India.

While the Congress president is under fire for his scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on foreign soil (London, Hamburg, Berlin), his speeches on divisive politics, saying that his thoughts are inspired by Guru Nanak, his remarks attacking the poor employment situation in India and bringing up the 1984 riot have started a vicious war of words.

While spokersperson for the BJP Sambit Patra criticised the Congress president's remarks and said that Rahul should apologise for "maligning Indian government", Congress came to the rescue of its chief senior Congress leader P Chidambaram pointed that Rahul, at the time of the riots, was a teenager and thus can't be held accountable. "You can't hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for that, he was 13 or 14. He hasn't absolved anyone," he said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the London School of Economics. Twitter @INCIndia

Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the London School of Economics. Twitter @INCIndia

Chidambaram, who served as a finance minister in the UPA government, added that former prime minister Manmohan Singh had already apologised on behalf of the Congress. "Congress was in office in 1984. A very terrible thing happened in 1984 for which Dr Manmohan Singh apologised in Parliament," Chidambaram said.

However, Patra took strong objection to the Congress president's statement and slammed Rahul for undoing the Congress party's apology made in 2013.

"Rahul Gandhi has undone everything, any leadership qualities that he had... I remember that in 2013 then prime minister Manmohan Singh had apologised for the 1984 riots. And here is a leader who undoes all of that to begin the vicious cycle once again," Patra told CNN-News18 on Saturday.

Calling Rahul an "incorrigible liar", the BJP posted a video on Twitter on Monday, where Rahul reportedly "admitted" to the role of some Congressmen in the 1984 riots in an interview with Arnab Goswami in 2014.

In fact, the party was in a fire-fighting mode all of Sunday after Rahul's 1984-riots remark in London where he claimed that the Congress party had no role to play in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that claimed over 3,000 Sikh lives.

Responding to a question on the Sikh riots at the UK Parliament meeting, Rahul had said, "I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don't agree. Certainly, there was violence, there was a tragedy."

As the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) scaled their attack on Rahul over the remarks, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh asserted that the party was not involved in the 1984 massacre. He also said that 'whosoever was involved' in the senseless killings in 1984 should be "hanged".

Singh's remarks came after the SAD on Saturday hit out at Rahul over his comments and said that by disagreeing with the view that his party was involved in the "genocide", he had "rubbed salt into the wounds" of the Sikh community.

Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia also condemned the statement and demanded an apology from Rahul over his remark. "When asked about the riots, Rajiv Gandhi had then said, 'When a big tree falls, the earth shakes'. Jagdish Tytler went on record to say that Rajiv Gandhi accompanied him to recce different parts of Delhi to see how successful the massacre was.... He should apologise for this blatant lie," Majithia was quoted as saying by News18.

Castigating SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, Singh said the Congress chief was in school when Operation Bluestar and the subsequent riots took place. "To blame him (Rahul) for 'anything' was totally absurd. To hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for an act, of which he was not even aware when it happened, was completely ridiculou ," said Singh, in a hard-hitting statement issued in Chandigarh.

Rahul Gandhi likens RSS to Muslim Brotherhood

Comparing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, Rahul on Friday unleashed a no-holds-barred attack on the Narendra Modi-government and the ideological parent of the BJP while addressing students in the Strategic Studies Institute in London.

"RSS is trying to change the nature of India. Other parties haven't tried to capture India's institutions. RSS's idea is similar to the idea of Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world," Rahul had said.

His words invited the ire of BJP spokesperson Patra, who asked Rahul if he had taken supari to attack Indian culture and said that he should apologise for his comments.

Rahul Gandhi at an interaction with the Indian Journalists' Association in London. Twitter/Congress

Rahul Gandhi at an interaction with the Indian Journalists' Association in London. Twitter/Congress

Rahul, in his address, while referring to the dearth of jobs for minorities, had also cited the example of Islamic State, and argued that the exclusion of a large number of people from the development process could lead to the creation of insurgent groups anywhere in the world.

Responding to this, Patra had said, "What you (Rahul) have said is unforgivable...The headlines of newspapers in Pakistan tomorrow will say that India is ruled by a government which is akin to the Muslim Brotherhood."

He further said, "Is a terrorist organisation ruling in India at present? Have the people of India voted for a terrorist organisation?...Jawaharlal Nehru had invited the RSS at a Republic Day event when he was the prime minister. Was it a terror organisation then?"

In a press conference in Delhi, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi questioned Rahul's justification of the terrorist outfit and said that he is incapable of being a good Opposition leader.

Specifically responding to his comments about the Islamic State, Trivedi asked how Rahul could so easily equate terrorism with unemployment. "Was the world's biggest terrorist, Osama bin Laden, merely a helpless youth? No, he was a billionaire! And those responsible for 9/11; were they also just lost youths? No, they were fully equipped and capable to have a good life in the US," he said.

He also said that if Rahul plans to lead a party which was formerly led by people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, Sardar Patel, Sri Ram Gopal Achari, and Babu Rajan Prasad, then he will likely not be able to fill in those shoes. He concluded his statement by saying "I would urge Rahul Gandhi to stay in India and study the current scenario before insulting India on foreign land. Perhaps his eyes of wisdom would be more open, and he would be able to understand Indian culture, economy, and politics."

Defending Rahul's comments, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said what the party chief had said is true about jobs, but his remarks on Islamic State have been "distorted".

"Rahul Gandhi was talking about extreme views and vision, in which he cited many examples including that of exclusion of women. I do not feel anything wrong in this statement, as it cites one of the extreme views of the RSS like many organisations of other religions have.

"If you take one sentence out of context and distort it, then definitely it will be distorted," he told reporters.

BJP hits back over Rahul's unemployment, women safety jibes

BJP leader Patra also spoke about Rahul's comment on women's safety in India on Thursday. The Congress president in his speech in Hamburg had stated that Indian men do not view the women in the country as equal and they should change their outlook towards women.

"I think it is a cultural issue, it is an issue of how Indian men view Indian women and I think it requires a huge amount of work to fix that problem," he had said. Patra attacked Rahul for insulting India's culture.

Patra said, “How can Rahul point fingers at the great Indian culture when his mother, Sonia Gandhi, is at top of Indian politics because of the great Indian culture?”

Patra said that in Rahul's speech he could only hear the word, China. Outlining his idea of India's foreign policy, Rahul had said there are different visions in the world, including that of the US, China and India. He said India's role should be to balance the US and China — much like Europe's role. Patra asked Gandhi if this is all he thinks of India. "You have a false estimate of India and India's potential," said the BJP spokesperson.

The Congress president in his speech had also claimed that the Modi government had struck down a law protecting the Dalit minority. Patra aggressively defended the government stating that in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, where Rahul was present, a more stringent law was passed. He asked Rahul to do his homework.

"You might not do your homework, but at least tell your team to," said Patra, while also questioning Rahul's facts regarding the numbers he has about China giving 50,000 jobs in 24 hours, and India giving 450.

"Where did you get this data from? Did you make them up in your house?" asked Patra.

"You also lied that money for the poor is being diverted to corporates, but remember what your father said about only a small amount reaching to the poor due to pilferage. Today, the entire amount is being directed to accounts," Patra said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 27, 2018 13:43:34 IST