Pitroda kicks up row with 1984 riot remarks

In the middle of the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab and Delhi, the Congress party on Friday found itself on the backfoot over a flippant comment on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots by senior leader Sam Pitroda.

In the middle of the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab and Delhi, the Congress party on Friday found itself on the backfoot over a flippant comment on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots by senior leader Sam Pitroda.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ripped apart Pitroda's remarks saying it reflected the “mentality and character” of the Congress and the “arrogance” of the leaders who run the party.

Addressing a rally in Rohtak in Haryana, Modi reminded the audience that Pitroda was a very close friend of late Rajiv Gandhi and currently the “Guru” of Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

“They have no value for life, for them, a human being is not a human being,” said Modi repeating Pitroda's comment “danga hua to hua” a number of times.

Asked to comment on the 1984 riots at a media interaction on Thursday, Pitroda had shot back: “...what about 1984? 1984 hua toh hua. Aap ne kya kiya paanch saal mein, uski baat kijiye? (what about 1984? 1984 happened, so what? What have you done in five year, talk about that)”

BJP President Amit Shah seized upon Pitroda's remarks instantly to hit out at the Congress. “India will never forgive murderer Congress for its sins,” Shah said on Twitter.

On Friday, the BJP presented victims of the 1984 riots at a press conference at its party headquarters here.

Pitroda apologises

Pushed into a corner, Congress distanced itself from Pitroda's remarks and directed the party veteran to tender an apology.

In a statement, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said “violence and riots” were “unacceptable and unpardonable”. He said the Congress and its leadership strove hard to ensure justice for the 1984 riot victims.

“Any opinion remark made by any individual to the contrary, including Sam Pitroda, is not the opinion of the Congress party. We advise all leaders to be sensitive and careful,” Surjewala said.

“I feel sorry that my remark was misrepresented, I apologise. This has been blown out of proportion,” Pitroda was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

This is not the first instance for a Congress leader to score a self-goal ahead of crucial elections. In 2014, Mani Shankar Aiyar had taken the “chaiwala” jibe which which Team Modi turned to its advantage by making it a campaign point.

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