Congress President Rahul Gandhi stirred a controversy on Wednesday after claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “got a woman to defend him” on the Rafale deal debate in Parliament, PTI reported. Modi rebuked the Congress leader for his “insult to the women in the country”, while Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah demanded that Gandhi apologise for his sexist remark.
Addressing a rally in Jaipur earlier on Wednesday, Gandhi said Modi had run away from a debate on Rafale jet deal. “The watchman with a 56-inch chest [a reference to Modi] ran away and told a woman, Sitharaman ji, defend me,” Gandhi said. “For two and a half hours, the woman could not defend him. I had asked a straight question – answer yes or no – but she could not answer.”
The Congress has accused the Centre of signing an overpriced deal and helping Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, which had no prior experience in the sector before landing a contract with Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the fighter jets.
Later in the day, Gandhi on Twitter said, “With all due respect Modi Ji, in our culture respect for women begins at home.” He then brought up the Rafale deal again.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party had lauded Sitharaman for her speech in the Lok Sabha on January 4 on the Rafale deal. She had accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government of creating a deadlock in the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.
Soon after Gandhi made the comment in Jaipur, Modi rebuked him during a public address in Agra. Modi said Sitharaman had “floored” the Opposition in Parliament by coming up with “facts after facts”. “They are bent upon insulting a woman defence minister,” the prime minister said, without naming Gandhi. “This is not an insult to a woman, but an insult to entire India’s women power, for which these irresponsible leaders will have to pay the price.”
Shah accused Gandhi of misogyny. “Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s outstanding speech in Parliament has silenced the opposition,” the BJP president said on Twitter. “Unable to counter her on facts, they are resorting to misogyny. They owe an apology to India’s Nari Shakti.”
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women’s chairperson Rekha Sharma also criticised Gandhi for his comment. The commission said it will send a notice to Gandhi.
“What is Rahul Gandhi trying to imply with his misogynistic statement?” Sharma said. “Does he think women are weak? The irony is that he is calling an accomplished defence minister of the largest democracy a weak person.”