The curious case of foot-in-mouth army of Congress

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury speaks in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Aug 6, 2019. LSTV/PTI

When the chips are really really down, one thing you cannot afford is the foot-in-mouth disease. That's what the Congressmen find difficult to learn.

On Tuesday, when its leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the United Nations has been monitoring the situation there since 1948, he was only adding to the long list of leaders who have repeatedly put the Congress party in an embarrassing situation.

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As Congress squirmed in discomfiture, Chowdhury tried to wriggle out saying he wanted to be enlightened by the BJP on this issue. But the damage was done. Entire BJP including Home Minister Amit Shah pounced upon Congress.

This is not the first time the foot-in-mouth army of Congress has kept putting the Congress in an embarrassing situation.

Addressing a gathering of Muslims in Katihar in Bihar where former MP Tariq Anwar was contesting, Navjot Sidhu in April this year told Muslim electorate, which constitutes 64% of the population there, that if they voted en bloc, “Modi would be hit for a six.” Though Anwar was quick to slam it when the BJP began capitalising on it, he lost the polls, and a police case was lodged against Sidhu.

Chairman of Indian Overseas Congress and a close Gandhi family loyalist Sam Pitroda, in the runup to the Lok Sabha polls, commented "hua to hua" (it just happened) while speaking on 1984 Sikh riots. As BJP launched a massive attack on the state and Sikh organizations spilt onto streets to protest the remark, the Congress asked Pitroda to clarify the remarks. But it too was late, and the damage was done.

Pitroada, after the Balakot surgical strike, had said that that it was “not the right approach” and demanded proof of the attack. Later as the party called it his personal view, he tried to explain his remarks, further tieing himself in the knots.

Film star-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who joined the Congress party from the BJP just before Lok Sabha polls, kicked up a row when he said Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah was part of the Congress family. Though he clarified it as a slip of the tongue, the BJP went to the town, painting the entire Congress as “pro-Pakistan”.

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “chaiwallah” jibe on Modi in 2014 kicked up a political storm and was used by the BJP to the hilt to portray the Prime Minister as a man from humble background pitted against “arrogant” royals of Congress.

Aiyar courted controversy again in 2017 calling Modi “neech aadmi”, which was again used by the BJP, which projected it as indication Congress mindset towards lower caste. Aiyar was suspended from the party. As he defended his remark again in March 2019 in an article, the BJP gave him the sobriquet of “Abuser in Chief” of Congress.

Interacting with party workers in a rally in Rajasthan in November last year, senior Congress leader C P Joshi questioned the caste of BJP leaders championing the cause of Hindutva and suggested that only Brahmins can talk about Hinduism. As the party disapproved of Joshi’s statement saying it is “against ideals of Congress”, Joshi apologised.

This has continued even as Congress leadership has cracked the whip many a time. Congress Shashi Tharoor had in past found himself at the receiving end of the anger of party leadership for speaking out of turn.

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