“Not like to comment on people who have narrow a mindset” Sonia told the reporters, while visiting the families of affected farmers of Madavada in Madhya Pradesh.
The BJP leader and MP from Navada on Tuesday had said “Had Rajiv Gandhi married a Nigerian woman and if she was not a white-skinned woman, would the Congress have then accepted her leadership”?
Following this a controversy snowballed on Wednesday with several opposition leaders and womens’ group condemning the BJP leaders jibe.
Throughout Thursday, several Congress workers and cadres took on the streets in Delhi, Mumbai, Patna and Bengaluru to protest against Giriraj Singh.
Many Congress workers were lathicharged and manhandled by the police as they assembled to protest outside the BJP office in the capital. Alongside condemning his remarks they demanded Giriraj Singh be removed off his ministerial portfolio by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is currently holding the portfolio of Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
By Wednesday evening after causing a major embarrassment to his party, Giriraj Singh expressed regrets saying “If Soniaji and Rahulji have been hurt by my remarks, I express my regret”.
But the opposition was least relenting.
“It appears that continuous quest to appease Prime Minister has made him lose his balance. Such remarks are reflective of lack of moral fibre in BJP and its cadre,” the Congress party released a statement.
Congress leaders even took on the Prime Minister over Singh’s remarks. “I think Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept him in the cabinet only to make such statements and probably BJP does not have a better leader for Bihar,” senior leader Digvijay Singh said.
Giriraj Singh is no new to the controversy over his remarks in public. During the 2014 General Election, making a pitch for BJP’s then PM-candidate Narendra Modi, Giriraj Singh had said “All those who are opposed to Modi, should go to Pakistan”.
However, Giriraj Singh’s remarks may spark ‘racial’ connotations with his choice of words. He mentioned Nigeria and the colour of its people, which blew up the controversy to a whole different level. Nigerian High Commissioner OB Okongor too reacted saying “given that the minister is at the highest levels of government, the remarks made are unfortunate. India, Nigeria have close ties, such remarks not expected,”.
Apart from Sonia Gandhi, Singh also took a jibe at Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on his leave of absence. “Absence of Congress Vice President is similar to that of the missing Malaysian airliner that still has not been located. The same way the Congress leader was not present in the budget session. No one in Congress is ready to speak. This is unfortunate for the Congress and a joke for the country,” he said.