Indian Overseas Congress Chairman Sam Pitroda on Thursday strongly defended his comments with regard to terror strikes in Pulwama and air strikes in Balakot, accusing the media of “amplifying the falsehood propagated by BJP leaders against me”. He said the BJP was diverting attention from real issues of unemployment and agrarian distress by insulting people and calling them anti-national.
Addressing media-persons at the state Congress office here, he said, “As a citizen of India, I have every right to ask questions to the BJP. But no one has the right to call me Pakistan-sympathiser or anti-national simply because I question the BJP.”
Told that BJP leaders were asking him to apologise for his comments, he retorted, “I have never said anything for which I need to apologise to anyone. And I will never apologise.”
Pitroda, who is credited with the telecom revolution in the country that began under late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, said, “I can’t understand why Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately tweeted about my comments and BJP president and other leaders addressed the media on what I said. Why were they so disturbed by my comments?”
Stating that what the PM commented about him was very “shameful”, Pitroda said, “I don’t feel hurt by BJP leaders calling me Pakistan-sympathiser. I have pity on them. They can speak what they want to speak.”
Pointing out that the BJP was diverting the attention of the people from the real issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, poor condition of the economy, education and health, Pitroda said, “Modi is insulting people by calling his opponents anti-national and pro-Pakistan.”
He remarked that “BJP is demanding vote on nationalism and Hindutva” and added “the Congress believed in the ‘Idea of India’ in which people of all faiths can live peacefully. Nobody is questioned about what he eats or how one prays”.
He also accused the media of diverting the attention of the people from real issues and not questioning the ruling party on the burning issues facing the nation. “You (media) are not questioning the ruling party. You are also diverting (attention from) the real issues facing the nation,” he said, in response to a question.
Asked to comment on Modi’s statement that a vote to the Congress was a vote against Gujarat, he said the question should be directed to Modi. “How can I respond to an opinion expressed by Modi?”
Pitroda said that there was an Emergency-like situation in the country now and people were afraid to question the ruling party. “If anyone speaks against the BJP, Income Tax officials are sent to harass them and even journalists criticising the BJP are threatened”, he remarked.
On Modi’s development claims, he said, “The GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) developed on 300 acres of land in Gandhinagar and Tata’s nano car project has completely failed, generating no employment at all.” He added: “The Congress during its rule developed a strong army, air force, navy, DRDO and other departments strengthening India’s security, besides setting up world-class institutions like IIMs, IITs and AIIMS.” He added, “But what has Modi done in five years? Only talks, nothing else.”