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'No public speech' by Rahul since Yatra launch: Amit Malviya

Ruling party refrains from acting against BJP IT cell chief who had tweeted an old picture of Cong leader with his niece in which many have read a sordid innuendo
Rahul Gandhi participates in a snake boat race exhibition in Punnamada Lake in Kerala on Monday.
Rahul Gandhi participates in a snake boat race exhibition in Punnamada Lake in Kerala on Monday.
PTI picture

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 20.09.22, 04:41 AM

BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya has falsely accused Rahul Gandhi of not delivering “a single public speech” since the inauguration of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, days after Union minister Smriti Irani’s inaccurate claim about the Congress leader failing to pay homage to Swami Vivekananda before the programme’s Kanyakumari launch.

While the Congress accused the BJP of battling the Yatra solely with lies, vulgarity and diversion, the ruling party refrained from acting against Malviya, or against his Tamil Nadu counterpart who had tweeted an old picture of Rahul with his niece in which many have read a sordid innuendo.

Malviya had on Sunday tweeted: “After the initial euphoria in Kanyakumari, Rahul Gandhi hasn’t made a single public speech. All that he has done is photo-op and orchestrated meetings with self-serving interest groups. Is he so unsure of his ability to communicate? Imagine the entertainment if he was speaking!”

While the Yatra’s format didn’t provide for speeches by Rahul, the party’s Kerala leadership has persuaded him to speak every day at the end of the walk because the huge crowds the programme is attracting have been looking to hear from him.

While Rahul addressed a massive gathering at the T.D. Medical College in Alappuzha on Sunday evening, the day before he had spoken at Cheppad. Besides, he has already addressed one news conference, with a second lined up in Kochi this week.

As for photo-ops with “self-serving interest groups”, Rahul has so far interacted with students, unemployed youths, women’s self-help groups, farmers, cashew workers, industrialists, disabled activists, fishermen, trade unions, auto-rickshaw drivers, political activists and common people.

A penchant for photo-ops is what many associate with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was pictured clicking cheetahs on Saturday, his birthday, while Rahul was speaking about joblessness, the damage to the economy and the hate being spread across the country.

Earlier, pictures of Rahul’s visit to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari before the inauguration of the Yatra had exposed Irani’s claim.

“We are compelled to crown Smriti Irani ‘Jhooth Shiromani’ (Champion of Lies) in the women’s category and Amit Malviya ‘Jhooth Shiromani’ in the boys’ category,” Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said at a news conference on Monday.

“What is shocking is that they don’t express regret after being exposed because the purpose is to mislead the nation. The lie factory is running non-stop. The worst is the cheap, low-grade insinuation by the Tamil Nadu IT cell chief, C.T. Nirmal Kumar….”

Kumar had posted an old photograph of Rahul holding a young woman’s hand. It’s not clear whether Kumar realised that the woman was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s daughter. He deleted the tweet after the Congress hit back ferociously, suggesting an affectionate gesture involving uncle and niece was being used to make insinuations.

Kumar has claimed his tweet merely questioned Rahul’s seriousness as a politician.

He has translated the original Tamil text accompanying the picture into English as: “Pappu seems to be happy applying henna and playing with kids, worried about that 10 persons who is going on yatra with Pappu thinking him to be a serious material.”

However, for many, the tweet carried shades of past attempts by the RSS-BJP ecosystem to malign Jawaharlal Nehru by using his photographs with women, mostly his close relatives.

In November 2017, Malviya had posted a collage of Nehru in the company of women. He had added that Hardik Patel — a then BJP critic who has since joined the ruling party, and who was the purported subject of a sex video at the time — had Nehru’s DNA.

While the women in the collage included Nehru’s sister and niece, one of the photographs featured Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of then US President John F. Kennedy.

Vallabh asked the Prime Minister why the BJP does not act against habitual offenders.

“Why is Nirmal Kumar continuing in his post and (in the) BJP? Is it because he posted the vulgar message on the instructions from the top? What Kumar suggested was an attack on Hindu culture and family relations,” he said.

Vallabh said it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Kumar were appointed convener of the Beti Bachao programme because he “fulfils all the criteria”.

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