Modi leads BJP’s charge as Pitroda’s racial analogy for Indians sparks row


PTI, May 8, 2024, 4:57 PM IST

Sam Pitroda (Credit: PTI)

New Delhi/Hyderabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP’s all-out attack on the Congress on Wednesday over Sam Pitroda’s analogy to depict India’s diversity as he slammed his comments as “racist” and asserted that people will not tolerate the attempt to insult them on the basis of their skin colour.

Pitroda’s comments at a podcast landed his party in yet another soup, soon after his reference to inheritance tax in the United States as an “interesting law” while discussing the Congress’s Lok Sabha poll manifesto gave the ruling BJP a potent handle to accuse the opposition party of eying citizens’ assets as part of its “redistribution of wealth” policy.

As Pitroda’s remarks went viral and triggered a political firestorm, the Congress, like the last time, swiftly distanced itself from its overseas wing chairperson’s remarks and even criticised those as “most unfortunate and unacceptable”.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the Congress’s stand as meaningless as it cited Pitroda’s close association with the Gandhi family and launched a blistering attack.

At his rallies in Telangana, Modi said he is livid with the racial profiling of Indians by the US-based “philosopher and uncle of shehzada (Rahul Gandhi)”, and linked the Congress’s opposition to Droupadi Murmu’s presidential bid to its mindset, which saw her as an “African” because of the colour of her skin.

Pitroda, an advisor to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, said, “We have survived 75 years in a very happy environment where people could live together, leaving aside a few fights here and there. We could hold the country as diverse as India together. Where people in the east look like the Chinese, people in the west look like the Arabs, people in the north look like, maybe, white and people in the south look like Africans.” “It does not matter. All of us are brothers and sisters. We respect different languages, different religions, different customs, different food,” he said in the interview that was widely circulated on social media.

Campaigning for the BJP in Telangana, Modi pounced on Pitroda’s comments to hit out at the Congress.

“I am very angry today. I do not get angry if someone abuses me. Today, the philosopher of ‘shehzada’ (prince) has inflicted such a big abuse that I am full of anger. Will people’s abilities in our country be decided by the colour of their skin? Who has allowed the shehzada to play this game of skin?” he said.

As a row erupted, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said on X: “The analogies drawn by Mr Sam Pitroda in a podcast to illustrate India’s diversity are most unfortunate and unacceptable. The Indian National Congress completely dissociates itself from these analogies.” The BJP dismissed the Congress’s disassociation with the controversial comments as it noted at a press conference that Pitroda has a history of making “insulting and demeaning” comments, including on terrorism and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

His “hua to hua” (so what) reaction to a question on the 1984 communal violence and “it happens all the time” reference to the Pulwama terror attack, both in 2019 as the country was gearing up for the general election, had also created massive rows, while his party had sought to distance itself from those.

At a press conference, Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar cited Pitroda’s long association with the Gandhi family and said he is explaining Sonia Gandhi’s and Rahul Gandhi’s idea of India. When a senior Congress leader speaks such language, it reveals the mindset of the party’s leadership, which is grounded in divisiveness, racism and ignorance, Chandrasekhar said.

It is shameless, he said, and sought an apology from the Congress. He also asked the chief ministers of four southern states ruled by either the Congress or other opposition parties whether they agree with Pitroda’s description of south Indians as Africans.

The Congress’s stand is nothing but hypocrisy and they should sack him as the head of the Indian Overseas Congress, the minister said, alleging that Rahul Gandhi only echoes and amplifies Pitroda’s views when he “runs down” Indian institutions and democracy during his travels abroad.

BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the Congress is getting more and more unmasked as the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls progress and the central issue is no longer election but India’s existence.

He said the polls have now become a battle between those under the influence of a foreign mindset in their definition of India and an India that is “aatmanirbhar” (self-reliant) and brimming with self-pride.

Playing other remarks of Pitroda at the press conference, the BJP MP said the Congress leader believes that issues like Ram temple and Modi going to temples pose a challenge to India’s democracy. It betrays his ignorance and contempt of India’s fundamental identity as its spirit of democracy and harmonious co-existence is rooted in its culture and traditions, he added.

In a post on X, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “I am from South India. I look Indian! My team has enthusiastic members from northeast India. They look Indian! My colleagues from west India look Indian! But, for the racist who is the mentor of Rahul Gandhi we all look African, Chinese, Arab and the White! Thanks for revealing your mindset and your attitude. INDI alliance’s shame!” “Sam, Pity-roda on you!” Union minister Anurag Thakur said on X.

Only a party with a colonial mindset like the Congress could indulge in such deplorable racism, he said.

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