Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday slammed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his “Chinese incursion” claim and suggested the Gandhi scion to think before making any statements, especially on sensitive issues such as national security. In an interview with News18 in Lucknow, Singh also said the former Congress chief needed to introspect as senior leaders were quitting the grand old party.
Gandhi has demanded answers from the Centre on Chinese incursion on Indian territory with respect to the Galwan Valley clash in May 2020, which has led to a prolonged standoff with China in eastern Ladakh. Rajnath told News18, “What do I say? It pains me that there’s such rhetoric on issues of national security. There should not be any allegations or counter-allegations on this. I want to tell the people of India that nobody will be able to occupy even an inch of the country’s territory.”
The defence minister continued his attack, saying Gandhi’s comments on the Galwan Valley clash were unfortunate when he said China had lost fewer soldiers than India. “Look at the kind of statement he made saying China lost fewer soldiers than India. Even an Australian newspaper has reported the opposite of this narrative. He lost his voice when it comes to talking about that report. He’s questioning the valour of India’s brave soldiers. What can be more unfortunate than this?” he asked.
When the recent abduction and release by the Chinese army of a teenager from Arunachal Pradesh was brought up, Rajnath said, “Which Chinese occupation is he (Rahul Gandhi) talking about? Is it the one pre-1959 or after that? He should know history. They (Congress) have ruled this country for over 55 years, so he should apply his mind before opening his mouth.”
Taking a further dig, he added, “That’s why senior Congress leaders are leaving the party. No serious and experienced leader has remained in the Congress, they’ve all left. The ones who remain will also leave.”
Talking about Congress presence in Uttar Pradesh and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s ‘Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon’ motto for the assembly elections, Rajnath said the party had become “insignificant” in the state. “There’s no significance of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. It’s insignificant. The BJP is the main opponent to other parties, there’s no one party against the BJP. We are fighting with all our strength with victory as our aim,” he said.
In another veiled attack towards the Congress, Rajnath mentioned how Priyanka Gandhi had stood “clapping” beside Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi when he made his controversial “UP ke bhaiya” remark. He called it the policy of the Congress to “divide and rule”. “It was very unfortunate. How can a CM say something like this, and you can see Priyanka is clapping. It’s the policy of the Congress to divide and rule. I was very upset. They are big leaders, and then they go on to say such things,” he added.
As for the BJP’s performance in Punjab, where voting for the assembly elections concluded on Sunday, Rajnath said the saffron party and its allies will form the government there. “The BJP in Punjab is where it should be. I can’t forecast the number of seats, but we will form the government there through our alliance partners, like Captain’s party,” he added.
Asked about current burning topics from India such as the hijab row that had begun down South in Karnataka, Rajnath refused to comment saying the matter was “sub-judice”. But on international affairs such as the Ukraine crisis, he clarified India’s stand and said there should not be any “war-like situation”.
“We want this to be solved through diplomacy. Problems can be solved through diplomatic talks. India also wants that there should be no war-like situation,” he added.
Besides these issues, the defence minister, who was in Lucknow, talked about the Uttar Pradesh elections at length. He said there was no anti-incumbency but pro-incumbency towards the BJP, and that there was no doubt that Yogi Adityanath will be crowned chief minister once again for his handling of the law and order situation in the state. He also said the farmers’ protest will not affect the results of the UP polls, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a “magical” resolution by scrapping the three new farm laws.
This time, the BJP failed to keep prominent backward caste leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya and Om Prakash Rajbhar in the party fold. In 2017, the BJP had stitched up an alliance with non-Yadav and non-Jatav leaders to create a strong OBC presence. Asked about backward castes being upset with the BJP, Rajnath said, A single person can be upset with the party. The leaders who are upset have gone, but the OBC community is with the BJP.”