Sam Pitroda reappointed chairman of Indian Overseas Congress

Sam Pitroda
Sam Pitroda

New Delhi | Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday reappointed Sam Pitroda as chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, weeks after he resigned from the post following some controversial remarks in the middle of Lok Sabha elections which the BJP termed as "racist".

Pitroda, who is considered a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, resigned from the post on May 8, and his resignation was accepted by the Congress chief.

"Congress president has reappointed Sam Pitroda as chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress with immediate effect," AICC general secretary K C Venugopal said in a statement.

Pitroda had stoked a major controversy with his remarks during a podcast where he cited ethnic and racial identities like Chinese, Africans, Arabs and Whites to describe the physical appearance of Indians from different parts of the country.

The veteran leader was an advisor to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and has been closely associated with Rahul Gandhi, accompanying him during his foreign visits. Pitroda has also arranged several interactions of Gandhi with students of foreign universities in the UK, the UAE and the US.

The BJP made Pitroda's remarks a poll issue, forcing the Congress to act swiftly and distance itself from his remarks, calling them "most unfortunate and unacceptable".

With campaigning in full swing ahead of the fourth phase of polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP's all-out attack on the Congress on Pitroda's analogy and slammed his comments as "racist". He asserted that people will not tolerate the attempt to insult them on the basis of their skin colour.

At his rallies in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Modi had said he is livid with the racial profiling of Indians by the US-based "philosopher and uncle of 'Shehzada'", and linked the Congress' opposition to Droupadi Murmu's presidential bid to its mindset, which saw her as an "African" because of her dark skin.

In the podcast, Pitroda had said, "We have survived 75 years in a very happy environment where people could live together, leaving aside a few fights here and there."

"We could hold a country as diverse as India together. Where people in the east look like the Chinese, people in the west look like the Arabs, people in the north look like, maybe, white and people in the south look like Africans.

"It does not matter. All of us are brothers and sisters. We respect different languages, different religions, different customs, different food," he had said.

Before that, Pitroda's reference to inheritance tax in the United States while discussing the Congress' Lok Sabha poll manifesto gave the ruling BJP a potent handle to accuse the opposition party of eying citizens' assets as part of its "redistribution of wealth" policy.

The BJP had also accused Pitroda of having a history of making "insulting and demeaning" comments, including on terrorism and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

His "hua to hua" (so what) reaction to a question on the 1984 communal violence and "it happens all the time" reference to the Pulwama terror attack, both in 2019 as the country was gearing up for the general elections, had also triggered controversy.

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