Senior BJP leaders, including party chief JP Nadda and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, lashed out at Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday night, accusing the Congress MP of disrespecting north Indians, and seeking to “divide and rule”, during an election rally in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram.
Mr Gandhi, who is in the southern state to campaign ahead of Assembly polls due in a few weeks, had said: “For first 15 years I was a MP in the north. So I had got used to a different type of politics. Coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues… and not just superficially, but going into details.”
“And recently I was telling students that I really enjoy Kerala and Wayanad. Its is not just affection but it is the way you do your politics. There is intelligence with which you do your politics,” he added.
For the first 15 yrs, I was an MP in north. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues & not just superficially but going into detail in issues: Rahul Gandhi, in Trivandrum pic.twitter.com/weBG2T1WAf
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2021
Mr Gandhi is currently the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad.
He was earlier a three-term MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi – a Gandhi family stronghold that was flipped by the BJP’s Smriti Irani in the 2019 election. He contested from both Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, and only retained his MP status after winning in the former.
Mr Gandhi may have viewed his comments as complimenting the political nous of the people of the state, where the Congress-led UDF is the primary opposition and has been fiercely targeting the ruling Left alliance on multiple issues, including corruption and unemployment.
However, the BJP was quick to hit back at his remarks, with some of its leaders criticising Mr Gandhi for trying to “divide” the country and others for running down north Indians after they voted him out.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, whose father – K Subrahmanyam, a former civil servant – was from Tamil Nadu, referred to his pan-India upbringing and said “India is one… never divide us”.
“I hail from the south. I am an MP from a western state. I was born, educated and worked in the north. I represented all of India before the world. India is one. Never run down a region; never divide us,” he tweeted.
I hail from the South.
I am an MP from a Western state.
I was born, educated and worked in the North.
I represented all of India before the World.
India is one.
Never run down a region; never divide us.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 23, 2021
BJP chief JP Nadda offered a scathing retort, tweeting: “A few days back he was in the northeast, spewing venom against the western part of India. Today in the south he is spewing venom against the north. Divide and rule politics won’t work… People have rejected this politics. See what happened in Gujarat today!”
A few days back he was in the Northeast, spewing venom against the western part of India.
Today in the South he is spewing venom against the North.
Divide and rule politics won’t work, @RahulGandhi Ji!
People have rejected this politics. See what happened in Gujarat today!
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) February 23, 2021
Mr Nadda was referring to local body elections in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, in which the BJP is set to claim an overwhelming victory; the ruling party was winning in 405 of 576 seats as counting progressed through Tuesday evening.
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also tweeted, mocking Mr Gandhi for claiming to welcome issue-based politics after failing to understand the “pulse of your family’s pocket-borough (Amethi)”.
“So, Rahulji thinks that people in the north are not interested in issue-based politics? They were not interested in your empty promises, Rahulji. You couldn’t understand the pulse of the people from your family’s pocket-borough even after representing it for 15 years,” he tweeted.
“Like Amethi was awash with saffron when the people realised your bluff, a day will come soon enough when even people in Kerala will make you run away,” he added.
Like Amethi was awash with saffron when the people realised your bluff, a day will come soon enough when even people in Kerala will make you run away.
— Dharmendra Pradhan (@dpradhanbjp) February 23, 2021
Union ministers Kiren Rijiju and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat also hit out at Mr Gandhi.
Mr Shekhawat appeared to take a dig at Mr Gandhi’s Italian roots, tweeting: “North, South, East (or) West, no matter wherever you go Rahul Gandhi, you will always find Indians superficial. Because, to understand us, you have to be Indian first!”
No matter wherever you go Rahul Gandhi, you will always find Indians superficial.
Because, to understand us, you have to be Indian first!
— Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (@gssjodhpur) February 23, 2021
Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: “Look at his gall. The man who ran to Kerala to save his Lok Sabha seat questions the intelligence of North Indians, including those who faithfully voted for his family for generations! Fact is…he was forced to run because of non-performance and lack of development.”
Instead of accepting failure & ineptitude to show results he is trying to imply that he changed constituencies because the voters lacked intelligence!
It is this combination of arrogance & selfishness which is responsible for the state which Congress today finds itself in.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) February 23, 2021
Earlier today Mr Gandhi mounted an all-out attack on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s government and, in an unexpected change of plan, visited groups of young Public Service Commission rank holders protesting outside the secretariat, demanding jobs and talks with the state government.
He had also hit out at the BJP in reference to the farm laws and farmers being called “terrorists”.