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Embarrassed Congress denies Twitter gaffe over Rajiv Gandhi quote

The tweet was supposed to commemorate the 72nd birthday of the former PM but ended up dredging a painful past for many.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2016 13:32 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya
Ravik Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
West Bengal Congress,Rajiv Gandhi,Indira Gandhi's assasination
Gujarat Congress leaders paid tributes at the statue of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on the eve of his 72nd birth anniversary in Ahmedabad on Friday, August 19, 2016. (PTI)

The West Bengal Congress purportedly tweeted a controversial quote by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, triggering outrage on social media with many users pointing out that the words were tied to one of India’s worst riots.

The tweet was supposed to commemorate the 72nd birthday of the former PM but ended up dredging a painful past for many.

The tweet was deleted shortly afterwards but screenshots saved by many showed a verified tick next to the handle @wbpcc. Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury called the incident a “conspiracy” and alleged that the account was hacked “I had a word with the people who handle our account. We will lodge a complaint with the police,” he said.

Rajiv Gandhi had said these words at a meeting after the assassination of his mother and former PM Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, an event that triggered violent riots targeting the Sikh community.

Rajiv Gandhi’s words were seen by many as insensitive. More than 2,700 people died in the riots and tens of thousands were displaced. Delhi was one of the worst-affected by the violence.

State Congress leaders said the handle was not the Bengal unit’s official one.

“Many people take it upon themselves to tweet saying they are from the Congress. I have already brought this to the notice of senior party leaders here. However, it is difficult to stop them,” said Abdul Mannan, leader of the opposition in the assembly and senior congress leader.

“Anyone can open an account and claim it to be of Congress.”

However, party insiders told HT it was indeed the party official handle that had sent out the tweet but the person managing it was young and wasn’t politically aware. “He did it without realising its significance, and it was promptly removed,” said a leader.

In the past three decades, the Congress has made several overtures to the Sikh community and several top party leaders, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, have apologised.

But the party’s alleged role in the violence is still a burning issue, especially in the Sikh-majority state of Punjab that goes to the polls next year.

This is the second time this week that the Congress has landed in controversy. Earlier this week, party general secretary Digvijaya Singh referred to Kashmir as “India-occupied Kashmir” but clarified soon after, saying the Valley was an integral part of India.

First Published: Aug 20, 2016 12:48 IST