Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who was at the center of BJP’s sharp attacks in Parliament and outside over his ‘Rape in India’ barb at the government, turned down the ruling party’s demand that he should apologise. Gandhi said the entire row over his remarks at a Jharkhand election rally was an attempt to deflect attention from violent protests in north-eastern states against changes to the citizenship law.
‘I will not apologise,” said the 49-year-old Congress leader who had rushed to Parliament soon after a vociferous demand for his apology was made by BJP lawmakers in Parliament.
At an election rally in Jharkhand, Gandhi had taken a swipe at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government over sexual assaults. “PM Modi used to say ‘Make in India’ but nowadays wherever you look, it is ‘Rape in India’. In Uttar Pradesh Narendra Modi’s MLA raped a woman, then she met with an accident but Narendra Modi did not utter a word,” Gandhi told an election rally on Thursday.
In Parliament, BJP lawmakers including union ministers Smriti Irani interpreted his remark to imply an invitation to rape women in India and demanded an apology. Proceedings were disrupted in both Houses and both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, adjourned sine die.
A senior Congress leader said Rahul Gandhi had requested an opportunity to respond to the attack on the floor of the House but the BJP was determined to ensure that his response wasn’t recorded.
Outside the Lok Sabha after the House was adjourned, Gandhi stood in front of television cameras to give his clarification and mount a counterattack.
“The main issue today was that the BJP and PM Modi have set the northeast on fire (over the citizenship amendment bill)... it was an attempt to deflect attention,” he said. Gandhi repeated what he had said at an election rally.
It is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who should apologise, he said. For destroying the economy, for snatching jobs from the youth and an older video where he called Delhi the rape capital.
Quoting from his meeting with former central bank governor Raghuram Rajan, Gandhi alleged the economy is in tatters. Raghuram Rajan had told him, Gandhi said, that nobody was talking about the Indian economy in the US and Europe. The only reference to India there comes in context of violence, he added.