New Delhi: If there was anything that stood out in 2018, it was the barrage of controversial statements coming from all quarters. If the Congress went all out in blaming the Centre for Rafale and absconding businessmen like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, the BJP’s Subramanian Swamy kept the reporters busy by speaking up on all news-worthy issues. BJP’s Yashwant Sinha, who resigned sometime back to launch his own outfit, also went out of his way to attack his own party then. Congress’ Shashi Tharoor emerged as one of the most vociferous critics of the Government, not just because of his prolific vocabulary but also for the statements he issued that led to sharp protests from the Centre. (Also read: Ten Landmark Judgements of Supreme Court)
The year began with Union Minister of State for HRD Satyapal Singh objecting to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, claiming he could not consider himself a “child of monkey”. He insisted he had put serious thought that there was the need to change Darwin’s theory of evolution in school and college curriculum.
Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar sparked a fresh controversy by praising Muhammad Ali Jinnah even as a row raged at Aligarh Muslim University over the latter’s portrait. At an event in Pakistan, Aiyar referred to Jinnah as “Quaid-e-Azam”.
Aiyar’s party colleague and MP Shashi Tharoor kept us regaled throughout the year. In Thiruvananthapuram, he said, “Why does our Prime Minister, who wears all sorts of outlandish headgears wherever he goes around the country and around the world, but always refuses to wear a Muslim skull cap?…You see him in hilarious Naga headgears and feathers. You see him in various kinds of extraordinary outfits, which is a right thing for a Prime Minister to do. Indira Gandhi has also been photographed wearing various kinds of costumes. But why he still always say no to one?”
Next up on our list is his comment that the BJP will write a new Constitution which will pave the way for a nation, much like Pakistan, where rights of minorities are not respected. “If they (BJP) win a repeat in the Lok Sabha our democratic constitution as we understand it will not survive as they will have all the elements they need to tear apart the constitution of India and write a new one.”
On the Ram temple controversy, Tharoor said, “No good Hindu would favour a Ram temple in Ayodhya by demolishing somebody else’s place of worship.” He also called PM Modi’s position vis-a-vis the RSS as that of a scorpion on Shivling. One cannot attack it with a shoe nor can one worship it.
At an event on Jawaharlal Nehru, Tharoor said the former PM had created such institutions in the country that even a chaiwala could become the PM. His words hurt the BJP which insisted on calling them a direct ridicule of the PM and his humble beginnnings.
Milking the Ayodhya issue, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that Government should urgently enact a law to build Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. He added,”We took just 17 minutes to demolish disputed Babri Masjid, how much time will the NDA government take to enact a law.”
On the same issue, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj called for the demolition of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, asking the people to hang him if idols of Hindu deities were not found beneath the staircase of the mosque.
When on controversial statements, how can we forget AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. His most controversial statement in 2018 was probably his allegation that BJP chief Amit Shah visited Telangana and said he would rid Hyderabad of Majlis. “Amit Shah aake Telangana mein boley Hyderabad ko majlis se mukt karoonga. Kaun sa mukt karenge aap? Kahan se mukt karenge…Aap majlis mukt nahi, Bharat se musalmaanon ko mukt karna chahte hain. Bharat se musalmanon ka alienation karna chahte hain,” he said.
BJP’s Subramanian Swamy waxes eloquent on anything and everything. However, while the political parties across the spectrum welcomed decriminalisation of same-gender sex, Swamy said homosexual relations were not a problem as long as “they don’t celebrate it, don’t flaunt it, don’t create gay bars.” He also called it a genetic flaw.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi kept the Twitterati talking about his comments on social platform, and otherwise, on various issues. In fact, his very clever pun in one of his tweets landed him in a soup when he tweeted, “Mitron, ‘Shirdi ke chamatkaron’ ki koi ‘seema’ nahin hai (Friends, the miracles of Shirdi are boundless).” He was referring to a news report detailing Congress allegations of disproportionate asset acquisition on the part of Union Minister Piyush Goyal and his wife, whose name is ‘Seema’ and one of the companies in question was called Shirdi Industries.
And let’s not forget Rahul’s constant refrain of ‘Chowkidar chor hai’, picking as he did on PM Modi’s declaration that he was a chowkidar of the nation.
Again, in August, Rahul alleged that the Modi government had turned the Uri surgical strikes into a political asset.
Later, addressing UK parliamentarians, Rahul called the 1984 anti-Sikh riots a “very painful tragedy” but added, “I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don’t agree with that. Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy.” Months later, senior party leader Sajjan Kumar was convicted.
While we are talking about Rahul, can PM Modi be far behind? The Prime Minister is quite fascinated with our scriptures, mythology and ancient history. His speeches are peppered with references to some or all of those. On ancient medical science in India, the Prime Minister told a gathering of doctors and medical professional that Karna not being born from his mother’s womb was proof that genetic science existed back in the day. And that Lord Ganesha was the first living example of a successful plastic surgery.
He went on to claim that there ought to have been skilled plastic surgeons at the time when an elephant’s head was placed on Lord Ganesha’s body.
Elsewhere, on a question on climate change, PM Modi ended up saying, “Climate has not changed. Our habits have changed, our habits have got spoilt.” On another occasion, the PM faced flak for claiming that he saw a roadside tea-stall owner drawing gas from a nullah to use as fuel. While some people did come out to say it was possible, the image the PM drew, of a man using a pipe to draw gas directly from a nullah was too implausible to believe.
The Prime Minister found company in Cabinet colleague Rajnath Singh who claimed, “They say a US observatory has informed us about lunar and solar eclipse on a particular date…ask any pundit. They will open the ‘panchang’ and tell you the dates of eclipses 100 years ago.” In one sweep statement, Singh showed that advancement is science and technology is really for nothing, a ‘panchang’ can do the job just as well.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh had the sure success formula for improved farming. He said, “The idea behind yogic farming is to empower the seeds with the help of positive thinking. We should enhance the potency of seeds by rays of parmatma shakti.” Wonder why there’s agrarian crisis still!
Congress motormouth Navjot Singh Sidhu got people talking when he claimed he feels closer to the folks in Pakistan than he does to those down South, in Tamil Nadu. Speaking at a literary festival, he said, “If I go to Tamil Nadu, I don’t understand the language. Not that I don’t like the food, but I can’t take it for long. That culture is totally different. But if I travel to Pakistan there is no difficulty. The language is the same and everything there is just amazing.”
Later, when he was criticised for attending the Pakistan side of the groundbreaking ceremony despite Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s disapproval, Sidhu said, “Rahul Gandhi is my captain. It is he who sent me to Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Amarinder Singh) also,” he had said. His own colleagues were soon asking him to resign from the state Cabinet.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb would surface with one controversial statement after another, all through the year. First, he claimed that internet and satellites existed in the Mahabharata era. How else do you explain Sanjay’s ‘live telecast’ of the war? Speaking at an event, Deb said, “Sanjay narrated what was happening in the battlefield to Dhritarashtra. This was due to internet and technology. Satellite also existed during that period.”
On another occasion, he said, “Mechanical engineers shouldn’t join the civil services. Later, he also claimed that ducks help raise the oxygen level in ponds. Whatever that means.
Controversial statements got louder as the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Meghalaya and Telangana approached. However, one statement that stood out was that of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that Lord Hanuman was a tribal. That led to so many speculations with Shivpal Yadav demanding the deity’s ‘caste certificate’, Bukkal Nawad claiming the God was a Muslim and another BJP leader insisting that He was actually a Jat.
With the new year just a day away, here’s wishing our politicians put more thought into their speeches in 2019.