A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted what he called Sonia Gandhi’s “Italian connection,” over the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, the Congress president hit back, saying that Modi can “sink to whatever depths he wishes to challenge my integrity, but he cannot take the truth away from my commitment and love for India, my country”.
Addressing an election rally in Thiruvananthapuram, she said, “Yes, I was born in Italy. I came to India in 1968 as the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I have spent 48 years of my life in India. This is my home. This is my country. For all of my 48 years here, the RSS, BJP and other parties taunted me to shame me for my birth. I was born to proud and honest parents. I will never be ashamed of them. Yes, I have relatives in Italy. I have a 93-year-old mother and two sisters.”
Campaigning in the state on Sunday, Modi had asked the crowd, “Do you have anyone you know in Italy? Do you have relatives in Italy? Have you been to Italy? Does anyone know you in Italy? Everyone knows who has an Italian connection.”
The PM had also said it was not his government but a court in Italy that has mentioned Sonia’s name in connection with the deal. “Madam Soniaji, aap ki yeh himmat? You are spreading lies… about the helicopter deal,” he said. “Our government has not mentioned your name or your party’s name in the last two years. The names have come from a court in Italy.”
In a 15-minute speech, Sonia said that it is in India’s earth that the blood of her loved ones is mingled. “It is here that I will breathe my last and it is here that my ashes will mingle with those of my loved ones. I cannot expect the PM of India to understand these feelings, but I know, I’m sure you will,” she said.
She said the sole objective of the Modi government is to indulge in “character assassination” of political opponents and “spread lies”.
“Why is he indulging in such underhand tricks? Because the BJP and RSS are afraid of us, because we stand for the rights of the farmers, right of the labourers, of our minorities, of our Dalits, adivasis, of our women, and we fight for their rights. They are afraid of us because we expose their dangerous communal and divisive agenda. But we shall not bow down to their pressure and we are not afraid of their harassment,” she said.
She also challenged Modi to show a BJP-ruled state that has a better record in health and education than Kerala’s. She said Modi had asked for votes during Lok Sabha polls by “selling people hope and promise”, but “betrayed” the mandate after he became PM.
She said the Modi government’s biggest revenue comes from taxing the poor and that the Centre is trying to take away the savings of the middle class by meddling with the provident fund. “All this while, rich businessmen, who defaulted the banks of thousands of crores, were allowed to run away from the country under his nose,” she said.
She also accused the Centre of “weakening the roots of democracy”. “Today, democratically elected governments, our governments in Arunachal, in Uttarakhand, are toppled through unconstitutional and devious methods. Modi and his government do not believe in Constitutional norms, in Parliamentary norms,” she said.
She also attacked the CPM-led LDF, saying, “The threat to the future of Kerala is not only from the Modi government but also from the LDF. The LDF believes in violence, in disruptions. They have done everything possible to prevent the success of the UDF government but they have failed.”
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 9, 2016