Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was attacked by the BSP and BJP on Wednesday for “dozing off” in Parliament when the beating up of Dalit youths in Gujarat was being discussed. The Congress dismissed the claim as “completely false, condemnably false”.
With Rahul planning a visit to Gujarat on the matter Thursday, BSP chief Mayawati told reporters outside the House that the fact that Rahul was “sleeping” shows “his attitude towards the issue and how serious he is towards atrocities on Dalits”.
She also attacked the Congress for trying to make political mileage over the Dalit issue. “When I raised this issue two days ago in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress paid no heed to it,” she said.
The BJP said Rahul “sleeping” showed the Congress “double-face” on the matter of Dalits, adding he had been found sleeping earlier too “whenever there was a serious discussion”. BJP leader Shrikant Sharma told ANI, “We understand that his nights are long and he feels Parliament is the best place to sleep.”
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Lambasting other parties and television channels for making this an issue, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “First and foremost, I am castigating in the strongest possible terms and condemning this attempt — be it by media or by any other quarters — to trivialise, debase and devalue, to peripheralise a most important issue. We are discussing Dalit issues and your focus is on the great story which you are running which by the way is false.
Completely false, condemnably false. That somebody is sleeping in the House.”
Claiming that Rahul was only checking his phone, Singhvi attacked TV news channels, saying “Secondly, the last I heard, checking once cellphone is neither a crime nor negligence, which you have made into a big story. The poor Dalits of that state deserve greater attention from you than such peripheral, debased and devalued stories.”
He added that he had proof of “(PM) Modi clearly sleeping on November 26, 2015, on Law Day. I have never raised it and do not intend to raise it today… Because I don’t believe even if Modi is slightly tired and closes his eyes for a few minutes, it is something which I must make a press issue out of. Or show on my television channels… Please don’t insult the intelligence of our Dalits, don’t insult the intelligence of our parliamentarians, don’t trivialise, devalue and debase the story.”
Incidentally, only in the morning, addressing party MPs before the House session, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had told them to be active, aggressive and hold the government and its ministers to their words and actions.