Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocked at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s political and oratory skills on Thursday, saying now that he has spoken, there’s no chance of an earthquake.
His remarks are viewed as a riposte to the 46-year-old Gandhi questioning the Prime Minister’s integrity.
Modi said everyone had seen what the “earthquake” was all about.
“They have a young leader; he is learning how to speak. Since he has learnt now to speak, I am the happiest… There could have been an earthquake if he hadn’t spoken. It would have been an earthquake that people would have had to deal with for 10 years.”
Gandhi accused the Prime Minister on Wednesday of accepting kickbacks from two business houses, some during his tenure as Gujarat chief minister. Also, he alleged last week that he knew about “personal corruption” by Modi, but the government didn’t allow him to speak about it in Parliament.
He said if he spoke in Parliament, there would be “an earthquake and Modi would not be able to sit”.
The BJP responded swiftly and called Modi “as pure as the Ganga”.
On a brief tour of his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, his first since announcing the demonetisation drive on November 8, the Prime Minister said the young Congress leader is learning to speak, but “kala mann” (black heart) is surfacing along with “kala dhan” or black money.
The reference is to Gandhi as well as the Opposition’s protests against the surprise recall of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, which the government said will weed out unaccounted-for cash from the economy. For his part, Gandhi said Modi could make as much fun of him as he likes, but should answer his question. “Did you indulge in corruption or not?”
The Prime Minister didn’t spare predecessor Manmohan Singh and former finance minister P Chidambaram either, saying they exposed their own report card when they disputed the government’s push for a cashless economy.
Singh and Chidambaram had argued that a transition from cash to digital payment is not feasible because of poverty, illiteracy and lack of electricity in most villages. Modi said poverty is Singh’s legacy because “he was Prime Minister for two terms and a finance minister before, and has been holding key positions since the 1970s”.
“Whose fault is he pointing at? Did I uproot electric poles or snap cables in villages which had electricity,” he said, countering Chidambaram’s views that online transactions can’t find wide acceptance as nearly half of the country’s villages don’t have power. The Prime Minister compared the opposition parties’ stalling of Parliament’s winter session over the demonetisation exercise to the cover fire that Pakistan gives to terrorists.
The comparison attracted a swift response. BSP chief Mayawati said the comment is indecent and showed his “frustration”.
(With agency inputs)