Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and HRD minister Smriti Irani were locked in a war of words on Twitter on Friday over IIT-Madras’s ban on a student organisation critical of the Modi government, as NSUI workers protested against the decision outside Irani’s residence.
Gandhi’s office said the de-recognition was aimed at “crushing dissent” and he would fight such attempts, prompting Irani to challenge him to a debate and accuse him of fighting his battles hiding behind the NSUI. IIT-Madras de-recognised the student group, many of whose members are Dalits, on a complaint that it was critical of the Modi government.
“IIT student group banned for criticising Modi government, What next?” Gandhi’s office tweeted on Friday. “Free speech is our right. We will fight any attempt to crush dissent and debate.”
Irani hit back on Twitter: “Next time fight ur battles urself, don’t hide behind NSUI. N by d way I’m returning to Amethi soon. See you there (sic).” Challenging Gandhi for a debate, she said in another tweet: “Give me a time n place n I’m ready to debate everything re governance including education.”
Attacking Gandhi for protests by the NSUI, the Congress-affiliated student body, outside her official residence in Delhi, Irani tweeted: “Tell ur men strong arm tactics were tried in Amethi n didn’t scare me during Lok Sabha elections. They won’t scare me now.”
She further said: “Yesterday u told NSUI to create disorder where there is order. Today ur goons come to my house as I’m away at work.”
Gandhi and Irani’s latest spat came just weeks after the two sparred verbally over a food park project in Amethi, from where Irani lost to Gandhi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
On Thursday, Gandhi asked NSUI activists to fight the RSS in educational institutions and wherever it is imposing its ideology. “Wherever RSS tries to impose its thought process, you stand and stop them. Wherever they want to bring the order of shakha, take the Congress party’s disorder there,” he said at a function organised by the NSUI.