‘It is PM Modi, not Rahul Gandhi, who has insulted India abroad many times’, says Congress

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NEW DELHI: The Congress hit back at the BJP for criticizing Rahul Gandhi’s address in the US, saying the Congress vice president “raised respect for India abroad” unlike “PM Narendra Modi’s speeches abroad in the early days when he was guilty of insulting India”.
The two parties’ leaders played verbal ping pong through the day, after a speech early on Tuesday by Rahul Gandhi at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US.
In that speech, Rahul slammed the Indian government for fostering an “atmosphere of intolerance” in the country, an atmosphere in which “liberal journalists are killed” and a climate in which “Muslims are killed on suspicions of having beef” in their homes.
The BJP hit back, unleashing leader and former soap star Smriti Irani, who called the Congress vice president a “failed dynast who chose to speak abroad about his failed political journey” in India and condemned him for “belittling the PM”.
Then, the Congress brought out spokesman and former youth Congress firebrand Anand Sharma, to take on Irani and the BJP. Sharma said their comments “betray their streak of intolerance towards criticism”, which he added is reflected in the climate in the country today.
“Rahul Gandhi spoke about the proud achievements of India since independence. Thanks to Nehru’s vision and successive administrations, institutions of the modern state and educational institutions of excellence have been set up, we became a nuclear power,” said Sharma recounting Rahul’s speech in Berkeley.
Because he spoke of these things, Sharma said, Rahul “increased respect for India” abroad.
“I’ll say Rahul Gandhi increased respect for India abroad. If anyone has insulted India abroad, it’s PM Modi. Did he not say in his first speech abroad that ‘before me India was corrupt’? That ‘the impression of India abroad is that of a country holding out a begging bowl’? Why, didn’t he say in China that ‘Indians who go on visits abroad are ashamed to call themselves Indians’? Did he not say all these things?” asked Sharma.
The Congress spokesman called this a “sick mentality” of the BJP and of PM Modi.
“Even if the Prime Minister is being criticized it is acceptable in a democracy,” said Sharma.
As for Rahul speaking about “rising intolerance” and “the growing politics of polarization” in the country, he was “just stating a fact”, said Sharma.
“To force everyone to think a certain way, to stop people questioning things, it is a reality of India today, the world knows it. It can’t be hidden. You can muzzle it in India, but big newspapers worldwide are writing editorials about it, it is a challenge. If there is atmosphere of fear and intolerance, how will India go forward, who will invest in it,” asked Sharma.

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