The political discourse in India certainly saw a sharp dip after some non-sensical and denigrating comments by senior leaders of several political parties. Massive backlash on the ground and on social media pushed these leaders into damage control mode and what followed was leaders coming out with a barrage of apologies and excuses for their ‘slip’. Taking the forefront two top leaders of the Congress even went to the lengths of putting the weight of their comments on their limited knowledge of Hindi.
On Monday, Congress parliamentary leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury found himself in a similar spot after he made derogatory comments for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In this meek attempt, Chowdhury had compared PM Modi to a “Gandi Naali” (dirty drainage). Derogatory comments by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury came after Pratap Sarangi had compared the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Swami Vivekananda in his Lok Sabha address.
Adhir Ranjan had said that “Ganga and Gandi Naali (dirty drainage) can’t be compared” to which ruling party members had raised objections and made demands that the words be expunged from the record. The chair calmed down the agitating ruling party members and said if any unparliamentary word was used by Chowdhury it would be expunged from the record. After facing massive uproar over his comments, Congress’ parliamentary leader apologized to PM Modi for his remarks and said that he had no intention to hurt him.
He said, “It is a misunderstanding, I didn’t say ‘naali’. If PM Modi is upset with it, I am sorry. I had no intention to hurt him. My Hindi is not good, by ‘naali’, I meant channel and not sewer. I apologise if the nation feels that I have disrespected the prime minister.”
Earlier another senior leader of the Congress, Sam Pitroda had used the ‘My Hindi is not good’ card after making utterly insensitive remarks about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots for which several leaders of the Congress had faced trials. Like most of other Congress leaders, he displayed no sympathy for victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots and leaves no stone unturned to justify the massacre. “This is also another lie, and what about 1984? 1984 hua toh hua. Aapne kya kiya paanch saal mein, uski baat kariye. ’84 mein hua to hua. (You speak about what you have done in five years. It happened in 1984, so what?),” said Pitroda when asked if ‘instructions to kill’ after the death of Indira Gandhi came from the then PMO.
Just like Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Sam Pitroda had also claimed his limited knowledge of Hindi was the reason for his comment. “The statement I made was completely twisted, taken out of context because my Hindi isn’t good, what I meant was ‘jo hua vo bura hua,’ I couldn’t translate ‘bura’ in my mind,” Sam Pitroda said.
Similarly, hours after calling PM Modi a “neech aadmi” in 2017, Mani Shankar Aiyar went on the back foot and said that he is a freelance Congressman and he’s “not well-versed in Hindi”.
This selective ignorance of Hindi by Congress leaders raises sharp questions on the legitimacy of the apology tendered after every un-parliamentary remark. Whether its Sam Pitroda or Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress leaders have made purported gaps in their Hindi knowledge an excuse to shoot and scoot. Illogical and insensitive comments by Congress leaders are sure to further alienate them from ground realities of the Indian electorate and are also sure to hinder Congress’ efforts to revive their image.