To PM's 'Dump Congress' Challenge, MK Stalin's Party's Measured Response

New Delhi:

A foot-in-the-mouth comment from Congress’s Sam Pitroda that raised howls of outrage from the BJP, was tweaked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today to target Congress ally DMK. Will MK Stalin “dare to cut ties with the Congress,” the Prime Minister questioned, now that Sam Pitroda has said South Indians look like Africans.

The DMK response was quick, nuanced. While Mr Pitroda’s comment was “unacceptable”, he was not altogether wrong, the party indicated. What they were sanguine about was PM Modi’s stance. “PM Modi was silent when a BJP MP made similar statements in the past,” the DMK said.

Mr Pitroda’s comment about race made headlines this morning. The Congress’ overseas unit in-charge, who made headlines recently with comments on inheritance tax, had now spoken about the country’s unity in diversity.

In an exclusive interview with The Statesman, Mr Pitroda described India as a “… diverse country… where people on East look like Chinese, people on West look like Arab, people on North look like maybe White and people in South look like Africa”.

Within hours, speaking at a rally in Rajampet, Andhra Pradesh, PM Modi used the fresh ammunition.

“They (the Congress) think people of northeast look like Chinese, South Indians look like Africans. I want to ask — will the people accept comments like this? I want to ask Siddaramaiah — is this ok? I want to ask then Telangana Chief Minister if he would accept. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who talks of Tamil culture. Will DMK have the courage to cut ties with the Congress for the sake of Tamil culture and heritage?” PM Modi said.

“The leaders of the Congress have divisive thoughts. The Congress mindset is to see the country in pieces. This is why the Congress leaders refuse to consider it one country and talk of division,” PM Modi said.

The DMK response was quick and nuanced. While Mr Pitroda’s comment on comparing Indians with Chinese, British and Africans  was “stereotyping and unacceptable”, he was not wrong on this point on diversity, the party indicated.

“We are different ethnic groups united to form a great nation called India remains true and that is a fact. That is what we believe in so we don’t see wrong in the core concept of what Sam Pitroda said,” said Dr SAS Hafeezullah, DMK Spokesperson.

PM Modi had also cited Mr Pitroda’s comment to attack Rahul Gandhi today, saying the country “won’t tolerate disrespect on the basis of the colour of skin”.

Mr Pitroda’s second flub has pushed the Congress on the backfoot. The party, which is still firefighting over his eariier remarks on inheritance tax, said his analogies are “unfortunate and unacceptable”.

“The analogies drawn by Mr. Sam Pitroda in a podcast to illustrate India’s diversity are most unfortunate and unacceptable. The Indian National Congress completely dissociates itself from these analogies,” read a post from the party’s communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh.