Two days after he challenged the Congress to appoint a party president from outside the Gandhi family for five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Opposition party again Sunday and claimed that Sitaram Kesri, whom he described as a “Dalit”, was removed from the post by “locking him in a bathroom” and then “thrown on the footpath” to make way for Sonia Gandhi.
Addressing a rally in Mahasamund, on the last day of campaigning for the second and final phase of the Chhattisgarh polls on November 20, Modi said: “Desh ko pata hai. Sitaram Kesri, Dalit, peedit, shoshit samaaj se aaye hue vyakti ko party ke adhyaksh padh se kaise hataya gaya. Kaise bathroom mein bandh kar diya gaya tha. Kaise darvaaze se hata karke, utha karke footpath par phenk diya gaya tha. Aur madam Soniaji ko bitha diya gaya tha. Yeh itihaas Hindustan bhali-bhaanti jaanta hai… unki majboori mein bana tha, usko bhi woh do saal jhel nahin paaye.”
“(The nation knows. Sitaram Kesri, how someone from the Dalit, oppresed, marginalised community was removed as party president. How he was locked inside a bathroom. How he was removed from the door, picked up and thrown on the footpath. And madam Soniaji was made to sit (as party president). This history India knows well. He became (party chief) out of compulsion, and they could not tolerate him for two years.)”
The Congress was quick to respond, with party spokesperson Manish Tewari posting on Twitter that Kesri “was treated with due respect by one and all”. “Kesri was a Bania OBC from Bihar & not a DALIT. However when has PM allowed facts or truth to stand in the way?” Tewari posted.
Modi’s comments on Kesri, who was the Congress president from 1996 to 1998, was a continuation of his latest line of attack against the party in the run-up to the state elections. The Congress had earlier responded by naming a list of non-Gandhi family party chiefs. On Sunday, Modi prefaced his reference to Kesri by recalling his challenge issued during a rally in Ambikapur in north Chhattisgarh on Friday.
“I had challenged the Congress because they said that it was due to Nehruji’s grace that a tea seller became Prime Minister… I challenged them that if they have set up such a principle, if they are dedicated to democratic principles, I had said that for five years, someone from outside the family should be made Congress president. Forget Prime Minister, just show us and make someone Congress president,” Modi said.
Referring to the Congress list, he said: “Toh unke rajdarbari log hote hain… raag darbaari maidan mein lekar ke aa gaye. Unhone khaata khol diya. Ki yeh bane thay, yeh bane thay, yeh bane thay. Lekin mere sawaal ka jawaab nahin hai. Mera sawaal seedha-seedha hai. Paanch saal ke liye, iss parivar ke bahar ki ek vyakti ko adhyaksh banake dekh lijiye.
“(So their courtiers brought their raag durbaari to the arena. They opened a list. They said he was made, he was made, he was made. But they don’t have an answer to my question. My question is straightforward. For five years, make someone from outside the family president and see.)”
The Prime Minister also took aim at the Congress while referring to Kashmir.
“My brothers and sisters in Bastar, by voting heavily, answered those that believe in the gun, bomb and the pistol. I want to congratulate them. In Kashmir, there were the panchayat elections. People would fear holding elections for many years. After putting Governor’s rule we decided the challenge of Kashmiriyat is this, that the villager of Kashmir should have the power in his hands… Terrorists threatened to kill people. If ink was found on fingers, they threatened to cut them off and in all of Kashmir, a bandh was called,” he said.
“But look at my people of Kashmir. Look at their dedication to democracy. Sixty or seventy per cent voting happened, and the people of Kashmir have given these separatists a tight slap. And this work our government can do.who stopped the Congress from doing this? Why were they afraid? They would play games from the backdoor with terrorists,” he said.
The Prime Minister also said that the previous Congress-led UPA government was “remote controlled” and did not look after the needs of Chhattisgarh.
“I was Chief Minister of Gujarat, I know that the remote controlled governments that used to sit in Delhi were not ready to listen to anything. I had to fight for the betterment of Gujarat, and Dr Raman Singh had to fight with Delhi for the betterment of Chhattisgarh… Raman Singh would ask for help to fight Naxalism, would ask for police forces, for communication, for modernisation. But the Congress government in Delhi, the remote control government used to think that Chhattisgarh is not part of India at all,” he said.
Modi also attacked the Congress manifesto, which has promised voters a slew of policy decisions such as a loan waiver for farmers in 10 days, Rs 2,500 support price for paddy, and payment of two years of bonus that the BJP government did not give.
“You had done the same thing in Karnataka. You had said that when you come (to power), you will waive the loans of farmers. Now it is almost one year to your government… the newspapers there are writing every day that on one side they had promised a loan waiver, but scores of farmers are being served warrants to go to jail,” he said.