Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Some Congress leaders have this knack of scoring self-goals during elections

AAJ KI BAAT (1) (002)The Congress Party had to face acute embarrassment on Friday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up a seemingly dismissive remark “hua toh hua” made by Rahul Gandhi’s adviser Sam Pitroda over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. There were strong protests by Sikh organisations in Delhi and Punjab and the party’s effigy was burnt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing election rallies on Friday sarcastically pulled up the Congress for Pitroda’s “hua toh hua” remark, and said this revealed the mindset of the Congress leaders towards the anti-Sikh pogrom that took place soon after the assassination of the then PM Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

In the evening, Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “I think what Sam Pitroda Ji said was completely out of line and he should apologise for it. I think 1984 was a needless tragedy that caused tremendous pain. … The Former PM Manmohan Singh Ji has apologised. My mother Sonia Gandhi Ji has apologised. .. What Mr Sam Pitroda has said is absolutely and completely out of line and is not appreciated. I will be communicating this to him directly. He must apologise for his comment.”

Clearly the party president is rattled, but this is not the first time Sam Pitroda has made comment that is out of line. He had made the remark that the Rs 72,000 to be disbursed annually to poor families under NYAY scheme will be managed by taxing the middle class, which he said was selfish. Rahul Gandhi had to deny this in almost every rally and he had to tell voters that the middle class will not be burdened.

Sam Pitroda had also questioned the outcome of Balakot air strike and he had given Pakistan a clean chit for 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. By scoring self-goals, Pitroda has allowed BJP to become aggressive again. He has rubbed salt into the wounds of Sikh voters who will be going to the polls in Delhi and Punjab. It is a strange coincidence that during every major election, somebody from the Congress has been scoring self-goals.

The “hua toh hua” remark by Sam Pitroda is not only insensitive towards the 1984 riot victims, but has also angered the Sikh community across India. Naturally, senior Congress leaders are now questioning, “Yeh Kya Hua”.

Pitroda has been active in the Congress since the days of Late Rajiv Gandhi, and nowadays he is considered adviser and “political guru” to party president Rahul Gandhi. He had been claiming that it was he who has been the brain behind the political evolution of Rahul Gandhi as a leader.

For the Congress, it will be difficult for the party to distance itself from Pitroda. Remember Mani Shankar Aiyar, who had taunted Narendra Modi as a ‘chaiwala’ during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections? He had called Modi a “neech” during the Gujarat elections.

It seems during every election, some Congress leader pops up to score a self-goal by shooting off his mouth. The party leadership should be wary, now that the electioneering is entering its last phases.

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Why Modi read out list of abuses hurled at him in the last 17 years?

akb (007)On Wednesday, while addressing an election rally in Haryana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in a combative mood. He read out a list of abuses hurled at him during the last 17 years by Congress leaders, starting from Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to leaders at the lower rung.

A few days ago, Modi had said in Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh that “your (Rahul’s) father was praised as ‘Mr Clean’ by his courtiers, but his end came as ‘Bhrashtachari (Corrupt) No. 1″. This remark raised the heckles of Congress leaders, who alleged that the PM has insulted the memory of their departed leader. The Congress even complained to the Election Commission.

It was in this context that Modi read out the list of abuses that had been hurled at him over the years. Sonia Gandhi had described him as ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death), Mani Shankar Aiyar had described him as “neech” and Rahul Gandhi had been parroting the line ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ in almost all his rallies and press conferences.

Rahul Gandhi had also tweeted to Modi after the remark about his father: “The battle is over. Your Karma awaits you. Projecting your inner beliefs about yourself on to my father won’t protect you. All my love and a huge hug.”

A few days ago an interviewer had asked Rahul why he had insulted the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh by tearing up the ordinance. Rahul replied: “I love him. There is absolute mutual respect between us. I use the words love and respect for him, not just respect.” So, if Rahul can insult his own Prime Minister and say he loves him, then there is nothing to be surprised about if he abuses the present PM as ‘chor’.

There is no doubt that Narendra Modi has himself become the main issue in this general election. If you remove Modi’s name, at least 90 per cent of the speeches of Congress leaders would go waste. Modi, on his part, chooses his topic depending on the time, occasion and venue. Modi was to address two election rallies in Haryana on Wednesday, and raised the issue of Robert Vadra’s controversial land deals.

Modi said: “This chowkidar has taken the person who looted farmers to court. He is making rounds of ED and court to take bail. He used to think he is Shahenshah, now he is nervous. I have already taken him to the jail door. Give blessings and I will put him in jail within the next five years.”

Vadra responded to Modi by saying: “I am shocked to hear my name again in your rally. Please stop digressing from glaring issues by taking my name.” Vadra went on to tweet on Thursday: “Are they above the law to decide and claim who they can send where?”

Congress leaders are feeling the pinch because of Modi’s remarks against Vadra, but they are silent. They have left it to Vadra to defend himself.

Modi did not stop at this. At the Ramlila ground in Delhi on Wednesday, Modi alleged that the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had taken his wife, in-laws from Italy, other family members and friends like Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan to spend an idyllic year-end vacation at Bangaram island near Lakshadweep in 1987. He alleged that Rajiv Gandhi had used the Indian Navy’s largest warship INS Virat “as a taxi” for holidaying.

The 10-day holidaying began on December 30, and I still remember newspapers and magazines splashing stories and articles about Rajiv’s year-end vacation. There were no private news channels those days and it was left to the print media to publish stories about the vacation. Clearly, Modi is raising issues where it hurts the Gandhi family.

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Mamata is trying to raise the issue of Bengalis versus outsiders

akb (1) (003)On Tuesday, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee told an election rally that “I feel like giving Modi a tight slap of democracy”. The constitutional head of government of a state was using such words against the constitutional head of government at the Centre. Really shocking.

There is no doubt that Mamata Banerjee is a grassroots political leader who has created her party’s base by dislodging the Left after a protracted struggle. She is indeed a firebrand leader and people appreciate her fighting spirit. But this does not mean that she can insult the Prime Minister for political gains. How can the Chief Minister of a state use such demeaning remark against the Prime Minister of India?

Elections may come and go. Leaders may win or lose power. All this is part of democracy, but to use such words for political gains is unacceptable.

And why is Mamata angry? She is angry because she does not want what she calls ‘outsiders’ coming to Bengal and taking away her chunk of Hindu votes by raising the issue of Muslim appeasement.

By raising the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and the issue of restrictions on immersion of Durga Puja idols , BJP has been alleging that Hindus in Bengal are being sidelined and the TMC government is appeasing Muslims. BJP leaders are trying to make a big issue out of Mamata’s mistakes, and, on her part, Mamata has started realizing that mobilizing Muslim votes alone will not help.

She has, therefore, changed her stance and is trying to project BJP leaders as ‘outsiders’ in order to create an issue of Bengalis versus outsiders. It is because of this that in the heat of poll campaign, the West Bengal CM is making intemperate remarks about the Prime Minister.

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Mamata should avoid politics over cyclone issue

akbPrime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday alleged that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee repeatedly turned down his offer for providing aid to those affected by Cyclone Fani.

Modi said, “I tried to speak to Mamata Didi over telephone twice after the cyclone. I kept waiting, thinking maybe she would return the call. But she never called back. Such is her arrogance that she did not talk to me over cyclone. ..Didi has left no stone unturned to do politics even with cyclone relief.”

Ten minutes later, Mamata Banerjee responded to Modi’s allegation while addressing her party rally in Gopiballavpur in West Midnapore.

Mamata said: “I do not consider him the Prime Minister, so I did not sit with him for the cyclone review meeting. I do not want to be seen with him on the same platform. I will speak to the next prime minister. We can take care of the cyclone damage ourselves. We do not need the Centre’s help ahead of the polls. ”

Amidst such a vitriolic attack, all that I can says is that the people of Bengal are fortunate that the cyclone weakened when it crossed over from Odisha to their state. There was not widespread damage like Odisha. Had there been widespread damage, Mamata Banerjee would have mounted a big attack on the Centre alleging discrimination.

Mamata Banerjee is a good political fighter, no doubt. She knows how to respond to political attacks, but in times of natural disaster, when the common man is facing crisis, it is not proper to bring political rivalry to a personal level. It was wrong on her part to say that I do not consider Modi a Prime Minister and I will not talk to him.

Narendra Modi has a wide experience in natural disaster management. He learnt a lot from the 2001 Gujarat earthquake.

Cyclone Fani struck the Odisha coast on May 3. A day before, on May 2, the Prime Minister came to our show to give a mega interview. When I interviewed him in the evening, the Prime Minister said that he had just come in from a disaster management meeting with officials to minimize the damage from the cyclone.

At that meeting, both the Centre and Odisha government devised strategy to make solid preparations to avoid major damages. They had already started evacuating more than a million people to safer places in Odisha, and had posted disaster relief teams in advance.

Modi discharged his responsibility as Prime Minister, and Naveen Patnaik as chief minister provided the fullest cooperation. For saving nearly a million lives, the United Nations praised the disaster management efforts in Odisha. But unfortunately, Mamata Banerjee took a completely diverse stand. This does not augur well for Centre-State relations.

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A mega interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

akbThursday May 2 was a red letter day, personally for me and for our institution India TV, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Jawaharlal Nehru stadium for a mega interview in the presence of more than 2,500 strong audience, with more waiting outside to come in.

The question-answer session, that went on for nearly two hours, in front of a rapturous audience, was engaging.

In this no-holds-barred interview, the Prime Minister revealed for the first time the circumstances in which Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan was released by Pakistan.

He also revealed, for the first time, how on the spur of the moment, he rang up the then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif to congratulate him on his birthday from Kabul, and the Pakistani leader suddenly invited him to drop in at a family wedding taking place at his estate near Lahore.

The Prime Minister also revealed how Chinese President Xi Jinping rang him up in May, 2014 to congratulate him and suddenly said that he wanted to visit his hometown Vadnagar in Gujarat. According to Modi, Xi Jinping told him that the hometowns of both leaders in India and China had a common link – the 7th century Chinese Buddhist monk traveller Xuanjang (whose name we read in history books as Huien Tsang), who had visited both the places 1400 years ago.

Modi also revealed how the wife of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his wife served him tea in Buenos Aires, and when they visited India, the leader’s wife served him tea in similar looking cups. He also disclosed how Singapore Prime Minister Li Hsien Loong and his wife took him to a South Indian restaurant for a quiet dinner.

The Prime Minister also spoke on the current general elections, Gandhi family, poll violence in West Bengal and several other current topics. Towards the end, he looked a bit introvert and spoke extensively about his personal life.

Do watch this exclusive mega interview with Narendra Modi this Saturday May 4 from 8 pm onwards on India TV.

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A big diplomatic victory for India

akbOn Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council at last designated Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Maulana Masood Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’, after permanent member China yielded to international pressure. China relented after intense diplomatic pressure from France, UK, and the US, and even Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, which chaired the UN Sanctions Committee asked China to lift its ‘technical hold” on the issue. Masood Azhar was the mastermind of the heinous Pulwama attack in which 40 of our CRPF jawans were martyred in February this year.

India has been pursuing the case in the UN for more than ten years, and at last, its efforts have borne fruit.

Masood Azhar, as part of the global UN sanctions list, cannot move abroad, and his assets worldwide will be frozen. Jaish-e-Mohammed has been the sword arm of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI in the Kashmir valley. After the UN sanction comes into force, all sources of funds for JeM will dry up, because any fund transfer to this terror outfit and its affiliates will immediately invite action from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against the host country.

Much spadework was done by India’s External Affairs Ministry, and by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in particular. Modi established close rapport with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, invited him to Gujarat and struck friendship. The two top leaders have been meeting frequently on the sidelines of international summits.

When China vetoed the resolution to declare Masood Azhar as global terrorist on technical grounds, there were derisive reactions in Opposition circles. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had once tweeted that Modi is afraid of Xi Jinping.

Clearly, Wednesday’s announcement is a personal victory for Prime Minister Modi. This comes in the midst of Lok Sabha elections, and Modi can go to town to tell his voters that the Big Powers like the US, France, UK, Russia and Germany are with him in the fight against terrorism, and now China, too, has joined. This is a big victory for the people and government of India.

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Sword of contempt is still hanging over Rahul Gandhi

AKB_frame_449The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up Congress President Rahul Gandhi for his ambiguously worded affidavit in which he had expressed ‘regret’ for saying that the apex court has found Prime Minister Narendra Modi guilty in the Rafale deal.

The apex court told his lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi: “What is the meaning of regret within brackets? …You needed a 22-page affidavit to express complete regret? You make a statement and try to justify? Where have we said what you have attributed to us in public speeches?”

The apex court gave Rahul Gandhi time till May 6 to file an apology affidavit. The court said: “While we observe that it will be open for the respondent to file an additional affidavit if he so desires, we make it clear that admissibility and acceptance of any affidavit, if filed, will be considered on the next date fixed, that is May 10.”

Even Rahul Gandhi and his lawyers feel that filing of a ‘regret’ affidavit, and that too, mentioning the word in brackets, was a big mistake, because the Supreme Court is the apex law court of India, and any incorrect remark made about its orders or observations can invite contempt proceedings.

When Rahul Gandhi said in Amethi and Bihar that the Supreme Court has found “chowkidar” (Modi) a “chor” (guilty) and has “found him guilty of giving away Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal”, he was treading into dangerous waters.

This was not a remark made out of lack of proper perception or an oral blunder, it was clearly an attempt to seek political capital by misusing the name of the Supreme Court. The easiest way out could have been that the Congress President should have tendered unconditional apology for making this remark, but his lawyers drafted a long affidavit which offered ‘regret’, and that too, in brackets!

Clearly Rahul Gandhi has complicated this case himself and he has very few options left. The sword of contempt of court still hangs over his head.


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