New Delhi, Sept. 29: Narendra Modi today made a controversial allegation about Nawaz Sharif having referred to Manmohan Singh as a “village woman” in a private joke and construed this as an “insult”, an interpretation that could be seen as prejudicial to women and villagers.
The Gujarat chief minister’s comment came hours before the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers began a meeting in New York.
Modi also seemed to make oblique references to Singh’s religious identity by calling him a sardar (captain) of the government but not asardar (effective) and claiming Rahul Gandhi’s recent comments had “knocked his turban off” (unki pagdi ko uchhal diya).
The phrase is an idiomatic expression for humiliating someone but the pagdi allusion can be deeply offensive to Sikhs, for whom the turban is sacred.
The comments come months after Modi, while ostensibly expressing sympathy for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims, drew a controversial analogy between them and “kutte ka bachcha” (puppy).
Today, too, his attack on the Prime Minister was veiled in the garb of sympathy as he spoke for an hour at Delhi’s “Japani Park” to a mammoth and largely young crowd.
As the audience asked for more, a spurred Modi seemed to discard the concessions to protocol and the need to appear “statesmanlike” he had seemed to be making since being anointed the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister.
He slammed Manmohan Singh for allegedly describing India as a “poor nation” before US President Barack Obama yesterday, likening the Prime Minister to “filmmakers who project India as a poor nation to make money”.
“My head hung in shame when the Prime Minister pleaded before Obama that he represents a poor country.… Why did he not project India as a nation where 65 per cent of the people are below 35 in age?” Modi said. He then turned his attention to today’s scheduled meeting.
“Prime Minister, you are meeting Nawaz Sharif today. We are told Sharif is very keen to meet you. But what are you going to tell him?” he said.
“My heart is grievously hurt. Yesterday, the Pakistan Prime Minister told some journalists from India and Pakistan over breakfast that the Indian Prime Minister is like a dehati aurat (village woman). In India, we fight over ideologies and policies. But Sharif has insulted 1.23 billion Indians by denigrating our Prime Minister as a village woman.”
He added: “Our country won’t countenance this. Sharif has forgotten that our Prime Minister is much older than him. But he didn’t respect his age because there was another reason why Sharif felt emboldened to say this.”
Then came the punch line: “This is because the Prime Minister’s own party has demolished his reputation. The party’s leader (Rahul Gandhi) called the Prime Minister’s decision (the ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers) nonsense. If this is the izzat (honour) he commands within his party, how can we expect the world to bestow izzat on him? If I have to say it in a rural idiom, the Congress vice-president has knocked his turban off.”
Sharif’s alleged remark fuelled a Twitter exchange.
Barkha Dutt of NDTV, who was at the breakfast meeting with Sharif, denied he had called Singh a “dehati aurat.” Hamid Mir of Pakistan’s Geo TV, who had allegedly used the phrase on television yesterday, clarified today that Sharif had said nothing derogatory.
Modi said the reason the Prime Minister was not “asardar” was the existence of multiple “governments” in Delhi and not just a diarchy of Sonia Gandhi and Singh.
“There is a maa (Sonia) ki sarkar, a bete (Rahul) ki sarkar, a daamad (Robert Vadra) ki sarkar, coalition parties and friendly parties. Each leader fancies himself as a Prime Minister,” Modi said.
He claimed that next year’s general election would be a “battle between parivar shahi (family rule) and lok shahi (popular rule)”. “People will have to decide whether the country should be governed by the Constitution or by the whims of the shehzade (prince),” Modi said in an allusion to Rahul.
Mooting his own “idea of India”, Modi cited his beginnings as a “tea vendor in a railway station” and claimed his background would ensure he would be a “sevak” (worker) of the people and not a ruler. He did not provide the details or even the broad contours of his alternative India, but claimed that what the country needed was a “dream team” in 2014.
|Goel (right) shows how
to follow the leader at
the rally. (Prem Singh)
Vijay Goel’s face lit up when Narendra Modi said at the rally on Sunday: Delhi is a state “jahan BJP ke paas Vijay hi Vijay hai (where the BJP is steeped in victory). Goel, the Delhi BJP president and head of the campaign committee for the year-end Assembly polls, thought his hopes of being projected as the chief ministerial candidate were coming true.
But the next sentence was crushing: “We have Vijay Goel, Vijay Malhotra, Vijendra Gupta, Vijay Sharma. There’s no dearth of Vijays,” Modi said.
The pun was not lost on Delhi BJP workers, many of whom were uncomfortable going into elections without a clear leader.
But Goel may not have been a popular choice, going by the crowd
response. He tried to do
a Modi and engage the
audience in a Q & A. “Are you ready to fight with me?” asked Goel, not once but twice. No response.
Undeterred, he signed off saying that “under me” Delhi would see a scale of development it had not
witnessed in 15 years