While regurgitating his (by now) predictable yet evidence-less attack against the Modi government as part of his long-running Rafale 'scam' crusade, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has triggered an uproar over the last few days by replying to Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman's point-by-point answers to his questions with what is nothing short of slander, shooting an array of personal attacks against her, the most recent being sexist in nature.
Straining the Rafale issue into a sort of personal battle, Rahul Gandhi also labelled the Raksha Mantri as a 'liar' without specifying any Rafale-related reason, rather on her stated 'middle-class background'. Here's an account of how after each time Nirmala Sitharaman replied to him on technicalities of the Rafale deal, he didn't respond in kind and instead attacked her on non-Rafale grounds:
'Defence Minister is lying'
After Sitharaman intricately detailed the Rafale deal in the Parliament and also hit back at the Congress president over the UPA not doing anything of consequence to help HAL apart from now shedding crocodile tears, Rahul Gandhi accused the Raksha Mantri of lying.
"When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM's Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament. Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL. Or resign," his Twitter message read.
Even on this, his claims were eventually put to rest as Sitharaman once again replied in Parliament giving a detailed break-up of the Rs 1 lakh crore in orders placed with HAL.
He said, "The Defence Minister spoke for one-and-a-half-hours. She had said that the Centre had given Rs 1 lakh crore contract to HAL. Then, she said Rs 26,570 crore worth contracts were given to HAL. So this is a lie. She has lied in the Parliament today on two-three issues today.
During her response in the Rafale debate in Parliament, Nirmala Sitharaman had spoken about having a middle-class background, something that the Congress president immediately questioned owing to her in-laws earlier having been affiliated to the Congress.
I'm again requesting the Defence Minister and PM Modi to answer my question, 'Did Air Force and Defence ministry senior officers object to your interference in Rafale deal?' Please answer in a 'Yes or No' manner. When I asked her this question in the Parliament, she spoke at length about her middle-class background, which is also a lie. She did not give a 'Yes or No' answer to my question."
The attack was reiterated and elaborated on by Congress social media in-charge Divya Spandana who 'dug-dirt' on Nirmala Sitharaman's family background, with the allegation, effectively being that mere affiliation to the Congress party somehow meant that one couldn't be 'middle-class'.
In a primetime interview with Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, the Raksha Mantri offered an emotive response to the middle-class attack against her, clarifying most starkly that her father-in-law had passed away by the time she married.
She said, "When I stood there and said that I come from a middle-class family, I don't want someone with a khandaan backing calling me a jhooti, a chor. People in Congress have dug up my father-in-law being a Congress minister. At the time of my marriage, he had died. I had not even had a fortune of meeting him. I've always spoken with great regard for my mother-in-law, she was very encouraging when I entered politics. Let the Congress party look into their backgrounds -- it was a family that spent its own money to be in politics. They were freedom fighters that time in the CPI and had shoot-at-sight orders against them. Post Nehru asking they joined the mainstream. They live a very ordinary middle-class life. They don't have properties in Himachal Pradesh, in London, their Daamaadjis aren't fantastically well off."
A sexist utterance against the Defence Minister fetched Rahul Gandhi massive outrage on Twitter, and from the Central government. The Congress president on Wednesday while addressing in Jaipur chastised the Prime Minister for asking 'a woman' to protect him.
He said, "The Prime Minister with the 56-inch-chest didn't come even once to the people's court - the Parliament. We smashed the Raksha Mantri's speech. 56-inch-chest Prime Minister said to a woman, Sitharaman ji 'protect me', I will not be able to protect myself."
The remark that fetched him backlash was followed by some more sexism as he dug his heels in instead of apologising, telling the Prime Minister to 'man up.'
Furthermore, the Congress party then targeted the NCW chief, Rekha Sharma, for taking cognisance of Rahul Gandhi's sexist remarks, telling her 'what her job is', and calling the National Commission for Women a "political tool".
Congress MP Anand Sharma said, "This is inspired by politics. Why didn't they issue a notice to the Prime Minister? He and Amit Shah should have been issued many notices in this regard. This is ironical that PM says anything and use the wrong language, nobody questions him. His remarks are insulting to not only the Indian women but also to the culture. They should not only act as political tools. The first notice they should have sent to Shri Narendra Modi. It is PM who has dragged the PM who has dragged the Indian political discourse to a gutter."