India politics: BJP, Congress spar over Rahul's dynasty remark
September 12, 2017 | 9:08 PM
by PTI
Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi delivering a speech at Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley, California on Monday. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: The BJP and Congress were on Tuesday locked in a vitriolic spat over Rahul Gandhi's defence of dynastic politics, with the ruling party calling him a "failed dynast and politician", and questioning the propriety of his criticism of the Modi government on foreign soil.

The Congress promptly hit back, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being "guilty" of "insulting" India on foreign soil first. In an interaction with students at the University of California in Berkeley, Rahul said India is run by dynasties and cited the examples of Samajwadi Party, DMK and even Bollywood.

"Most parties in India have that problem...Mr Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast. Mr Stalin (son of M Karunanidhi of DMK) is a dynast... even Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast. So, that's how India runs. So, don't get after me because that's how India is run.

"By the way, last, I recall, Ambanis are running the business. That's also going on in Infosys. So, that's what happens in India," Rahul said as he listed several prominent Indians born into famous families while responding to questions by students.

Within hours, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani mounted a fierce assault on Rahul, saying a "failed dynast" chose to speak about his "failed political journey" in the U.S. as India was not listening to him.

Sniping at Rahul for his admission that the Congress had turned arrogant since 2012, Irani said it is a "big political confession" and a reflection on Sonia Gandhi, who was and is its president.

Hitting out at Rahul for his remarks on dynasties, Irani cited the examples of President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Modi to argue that the top three constitutional positions were held by people from humble background.

This was evidence that merit, not dynasty, drove India's robust democracy, the Information and Broadcasting minister added.

She took on Rahul for accusing Modi of pursuing divisive politics and causing "tremendous damage" to India's economy with "reckless and dangerous" decisions like demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax.

Irani said Rahul had little awareness of the "lack of propriety" in criticising his country on foreign soil as he was driven by "boosting his own image not patriotism".

The Congress launched a spirited counteroffensive against Irani for her attack against the party vice president. "It is the present prime minister who is guilty of insulting India on foreign soil. It is wrong to accuse Rahul Gandhi of having said anything which is belittling. It again betrays the streak of intolerance and criticism by the BJP and the present government," party spokesman Anand Sharma told reporters.

According to Sharma, the prime minister during his first foreign visit had called the country corrupt and said India was recognised the world over for carrying a "begging bowl in its hand" and that Indians used to feel ashamed about their national identity on foreign soil.

"Instead of criticising us, today is the time for prime minister and his apologist ministers to reflect and apologise to the country for having said such words on foreign soil," he said.

"We reject the criticism with the force of truth, facts of history and with contempt for those who have neither contributed to making India what it is but have only belittled and insulted the predecessors and all those great men and women who are responsible for what India is today," he said.

BJP president Amit Shah, who is in West Bengal capital, claimed his party removed dynastic politics from the country as it believed in politics of performance.

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"We do not believe in the politics of appeasement which is votebank politics. We have removed dynastic politics from India. We believe in politics of performance," Shah said during an interaction with intellectuals on the second day of his three-day visit to Kolkata.

Responding to Shah's criticism of Rahul, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter, "Hype V/S Truth! Those who have failed India only speak jumlas, lies and digs. Those who believe in India speak the truth and accept challenges."

Rahul came in for criticism for his diatribe against Modi from another senior cabinet minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who too questioned the correctness of the Congress leader attacking the government on a visit abroad.

"Rahul Gandhi is breaking the well-laid tradition of Indian polity --that is when you go abroad, you don't speak ill about the government," he told reporters. Prasad said when BJP leaders went abroad "at the height of corruption" by the Manmohan Singh government, they were "muted" despite the international outcry.

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