How many women in RSS, Rahul Gandhi asks; Smriti Irani hits back

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi interacts with villagers at a programme in Dwarka, Gujarat Photo: PTI
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday persisted with his demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarify if he was a “partner” in the “theft”, referring to the business dealings of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah’s son Jay. The Congress vice-president was in poll-bound Gujarat on the second day of his three-day visit to the home state of the PM and BJP chief. 

Meanwhile, Shah headed to Gandhi’s Lok Sabha seat Amethi in Uttar Pradesh (UP) to launch an attack on Rahul. Shah, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Minister Smriti Irani held a public rally in Amethi. The BJP chief said Gandhi had left his Amethi constituency in “crisis” and was visiting Gujarat ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.

In New Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the allegations against the BJP president’s son have no basis and there was no need for any investigation. “Such allegations have surfaced in the past too. They are levelled from time to time. It has no basis.” 

In August 2014, within three months of the Modi government having taken over, the home minister had threatened to quit public life if allegations of corruption against his son were proven. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the BJP chief then had to issue statements to deny reports of rift within the government.

The controversy had erupted after a website, The Wire, on Sunday published a report that claimed the turnover of a firm owned by Jay had increased by 16,000 times after the BJP came to power at the Centre and his father was made the party chief. On Monday, Jay filed a criminal defamation case at a court in Ahmedabad against The Wire.

Gandhi said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh did not give any importance to women. “How many women are there in the RSS? Have you ever seen any woman in shakhas wearing shorts?" he ask. “In the Congress you will see women at every level in the organisation.”

In Amethi, Irani criticised Rahul for his “indecent” remarks. “If Rahulji believes that wearing shorts in India is the sign of empowerment, as a woman, I want to contradict it.” Irani said the Congress vice-president has insulted members of the women’s wing of the RSS. “Today, an indecent comment has been made on our sisters connected with the Sangh, the Rashtriya Sevika Sangh or the sisters, wives and sisters-in-law of ordinary Sangh workers,” a PTI report quoted her as saying.

Rahul criticised the ministers and BJP leaders who have defended Jay. The Congress Vice-President said the Modi government should change the name of the government's flagship scheme for the girl child, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, to “Amit Shah ke bete ko bachao (save Amit Shah’s son)".

"A theft has taken place in front of the eyes of the chowkidar (watchman), but you are silent. The question is whether you are a watchman or a partner?" Gandhi said at a public rally in Karjan in central Gujarat. He also said the state was under ~2 lakh crore of debt, but there has been no improvement in the condition of farmers and the poor.

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