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‘Sari-shawl’ MP gets rap

New Delhi, July 25: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has protested against a Shiv Sena MP’s recent remarks against the pursuit of “sari-and-shawl diplomacy” with Pakistan. The MP has since piped down and partially retracted what he said.

Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha member and editor of Sena mouthpiece Saamna, had told journalists two days ago: “What is this sari-and-shawl diplomacy? There should be no talks with Pakistan. This has been our stand yesterday and even today when we are in the government.”

Alluding to the recent killings of Indian soldiers and ceasefire violations on the western border, Raut asked: “Should we continue to keep counting our dead soldiers? If they (Pakistan) have killed one soldier of ours, we should kill 10 soldiers of theirs. This would be a befitting reply.”

Raut took a dig at Modi for accepting from Nawaz Sharif a white sari as a gift for his mother, Heera Ba, and reciprocating by sending a shawl for the Pakistan Prime Minister’s mother. Sharif sent the sari after attending Modi’s swearing-in at Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 26 along with leaders of other Saarc countries.

A BJP source said Modi had been “extremely upset” when he heard Raut’s response, played in a loop on TV channels, and asked why his mother was “dragged” into the discourse.

“The exchange of gifts between the Prime Ministers for their mothers was very personal. The Pakistan PM told Modiji that when he watched Modiji’s mother feeding him a sweet before bidding him farewell in Ahmedabad (when he left for Delhi to take oath of office), Sharif sahab’s mother said when you meet him please present a white sari for his mother. Sharif sahab and his mother watched the episode on TV together. His mother became very emotional,” the source said.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was spoken to by BJP intermediaries and told that Modi was “displeased” with Raut. Uddhav was also asked to ensure that “hurtful” remarks of a “personal nature” were not made again.

A chastened Raut — who in the past has always stood by his controversial articulations — claimed to The Telegraph that he had not spoken “unilaterally” on the matter.

“I was approached by reporters but I was misquoted because I had not said anything about saris and shawls. The exchange of gifts between the heads of states is part of diplomatic protocol. So who am I to object to it? The larger problems can be solved through dialogue but protocol should be respected,” he said.