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Rahul attempts damage control as Pitroda’s comments haunt Congress

Analysts said that while there has been an attempt at quick damage control, the comment by Pitroda has blunted the Congress attack against the Akali front.

, ET Bureau|
May 14, 2019, 07.50 AM IST
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Rahul-Gandhi
At the end of his speech in Khanna, that also sought to promote his pet ‘Nyay’ scheme, Gandhi came out strongly against Pitroda.
Twice in the span of a few hours, Congress president Rahul Gandhi went into damage control mode over comments by overseas Congress chief Sam Pitroda on the 1984 riots, responding to feedback that the issue has been gaining traction and had given a last-minute rallying point to the Akali-BJP front.

In front of a packed crowd in the afternoon heat in Khanna, Gandhi spoke at length on the ‘failures’ of the BJP government in a speech dominated by repeated attacks on PM Narendra Modi, alleging that the Central government has only taken care of big industrialists.

However, at the end of the speech that also sought to promote his pet ‘Nyay’ scheme, Gandhi came out strongly against Pitroda. “I called him and I told him what you have said is absolutely wrong. You need to apologise for the comments. And the apology needs to be public,” he said.

Hours later in Hoshiarpur, the comments were repeated, with an additional reference to ‘what happened in 1984 was totally wrong and action should and will be taken for what happened.’ Analysts said that while there has been an attempt at quick damage control, the ‘1984 mai hua to hua’ comment by Pitroda has blunted the main thrust of the Congress discourse against the Akali front in the state – the infamous Bargari incidents in 2015 when Sikh religious texts were desecrated, leading to protests and police firing.

“The whole idiom of the Congress campaign had the Bargari incident and violation of religious texts as the background. The comments on 1984 have given some relief in a way to the Shiromani Akali Dal, which had been cornered in a way and are bound to be used as a counter-narrative against the dominant political discourse of the Congress for the past two and a half years,” said Pramod Kumar, Director of the Chandigarh-based Institute for Development and Communication.
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