New Delhi | Former Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad's allegation that Rahul Gandhi has ties with "undesirable businessmen" triggered a political row on Monday with the BJP asking Gandhi to clarify the "serious charge" made against him.
The Congress hit back at Azad alleging that with every passing day he "falls to new depths" to demonstrate his loyalty to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Azad's contemptible statements on the Congress' leadership reflect his desperation to remain relevant, the Congress said.
In an interview with the Malayalam News channel Asianet News on Sunday, Azad, referring to the Gandhi family, said,"the entire family has associations with businessmen, including him (Rahul). I can give you 10 examples of where he would go, even outside the country, to meet people who are undesirable businessmen." Seeking an explanation from Rahul Gandhi over the allegation, senior BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said,"Ghulam Nabi Azad has made a serious allegation that whenever Rahul Gandhi goes on a foreign tour, he meets many 'unwanted businessmen." "Who are these 'unwanted traders' and what are their interests? Is Rahul Gandhi trying to weaken India at the behest of anti-India businessmen and working against Modi ji (PM Narendra Modi)?," he said at a press conference in Patna.
Prasad also wondered why Gandhi is maintaining a "stoic silence" over the alleged involvement of Congress leaders in "a number of scams".
"Revelations made by Azad are serious in nature... Rahul Gandhi needs to clarify," the senior BJP leader said.
Azad's charge on Sunday came a day after Rahul Gandhi had taken a swipe at some leaders who have quit the Congress in recent years and some of whom have joined the BJP, while keeping up his offensive against the government over the Adani issue.
Hitting back at Azad, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, "With every passing day, Ghulam Nabi Azad falls to new depths to demonstrate his true character and his loyalty to Mr (Narendra) Modi." "His contemptible statements on the Congress leadership reflect his desperation to remain relevant. I can only say that he is pathetic," Ramesh said in a tweet.
In a sharp counter-response to Ramesh, BJP general secretary (Organisation) BL Santhosh said, "with every passing day you are becoming a bigger trumpeter for 'Emperor without clothes." Coinciding with the launch of his autobiography, Azad has been giving a series of interviews, slamming the Congress leadership and the party and said one has to be "spineless" to remain in the Congress party.
He also made some disparaging remarks against Rahul Gandhi as he squarely blamed him for his ouster from the party.
Congress leaders from Jammu and Kashmir also hit out at Azad on Monday, saying his criticism is a manifestation of "treachery and highest form of ungratefulness" towards the Nehru-Gandhi family on his part.
"Former Congress LOP in Rajya Sabha should also have counted ‘out of turn' promotions, favours and positions both (official and organisational) he enjoyed during his four decades in power due to Nehru-Gandhi family's blessings and trust reposed in him," Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Saifuddin Soz and Tariq Hameed Karra said in a joint statement.
Hailing from a remote area of the Doda district, Azad was recommended by late Mufti Mohd Sayeed to Madam Indira Gandhi, who made him a youth leader without any political background or fan following, they said.
"Then he (Azad) was rewarded with a party ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Maharashtra where Madam Gandhi herself campaigned and ensured his victory by a thumping majority, with the result he made his entry in Lok Sabha for the first time.
"Since then, the Nehru-Gandhi family, whom Azad is now targeting, made a sea of opportunities available for him. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha many times, subsequently made the Union minister a number of times without facing elections, which he should also count while speaking against the Gandhi family," the statement stated.
Azad, who floated the Democratic Progressive Azad Party after quitting the Congress, had recently said that Rahul Gandhi was the primary reason why he and many others had left the party and claimed it was not in the hands of Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi or even party president Mallikarjun Kharge to ensure his return to the party fold even if they wanted.
The Congress leaders said Azad was defaming the party to create confusion among the masses in view of the Gandhi scion's constructive role and the appreciation he was receiving for "fighting the battle against crony capitalism and organised loot of the nation's wealth on the part of the Narendra Modi government".
Meanwhile, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also came out in support of her brother saying she is proud of her brother who faces injustice with dignity and won't back down from the truth no matter how many desert him.