Several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and union ministers on Tuesday accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of being an ‘opportunist’ and alleged that he belittled north Indians during a speech delivered in the southern state of Kerala.
Addressing a public gathering in Thiruvananthapuram, the former Congress chief said, “For the first 15 years, I was an MP in the north. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in issues.”
Labelling these comments as anti-north Indians, several BJP leaders attacked Gandhi and alleged he was being an opportunist despite he and his family members having won several elections from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
In a tweet, BJP president J P Nadda said, “A few days back he (Gandhi) was in the Northeast, spewing venom against the western part of India. Today in the South he is spewing venom against the North. Divide and rule politics won’t work, @RahulGandhi Ji! People have rejected this politics. See what happened in Gujarat today!” He was apparently referring to the BJP’s victory in local body elections in Gujarat. Referring to Gandhi’s comments, Union minister and BJP leaders Smriti Irani called him “ungrateful” and said the popular saying about such a person is “one without much knowledge blabbers more”.
Irani defeated Gandhi in his family bastion Amethi during the last general elections, but he won from Waynad in Kerala, the second Lok Sabha seat he had contested from. Another union minister Kiren Rijiju, in his tweet, asked Gandhi not to “abuse Amethi and North Indians”.
“Amethi people have given so much chance to your entire family! People from every part of India are good if you are good,” the minister said. Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted, “Look at his gall. The man who ran to Kerala to save his Lok Sabha seat questions the intelligence of North Indians, including those who faithfully voted for his family for generations! Fact is…he was forced to run because of non-performance and lack of development.”
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said, “North, South, East (or) West, no matter wherever you go Rahul Gandhi, you will always find Indians superficial. Because, to understand us, you have to be Indian first!” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, “I hail from the South. I am an MP from a Western state. I was born, educated and worked in the North. I represented all of India before the World. India is one. Never run down a region; never divide us.”
At a rally in Thiruvananthapuram, marking the culmination of the 22-day-long Aishwarya Yatra led by the leader of opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala, Gandhi had also lashed out at the Centre over the three contentious farm laws and said the aim of the BJP government is to destroy farmers’ market and not getting them the right price for their produce.
The Congress leader also attacked the central and state governments over the rising fuel prices despite a low oil price in the international market and claimed both the governments are giving the money to the richest in the country. The state-wide yatra, led by Chennithala, began on January 31 from Manjeswaram in the northernmost Kasaragod district and ended at Parassala near here on Sunday.
Gandhi said he learnt a lot from Kerala and understood a bit about the “wisdom of the people” here. Gandhi told the gathering that while talking to some students in the US recently, he said he “really enjoys” going to Kerala because of “the way you do politics.” “Recently, I was talking to some students in the United States and I said that I really enjoy going to Kerala and really I love going to Wayanad. It’s not just the affection, because the affection of course is there, but it’s the way you do your politics.” “If I might say so, the intelligence with which you do your politics. So, for me, it’s been a learning experience and pleasure,” he said.
Gandhi, who was representing Amethi constituency of Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha since 2004, contested from Wayanad constituency in Kerala simultaneously in the general elections of 2019. Although he lost Amethi to Smriti Irani of the BJP, he won from the Congress bastion in Kerala.