Rahul Gandhi has provoked criticism with his sexist comments on Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal. The National Commission for Women has issued notice to the Congress president. Union Minister Sushma Swaraj says the comments mark a “new low” in Indian politics. Her colleague Smriti Irani tweeted today with the hashtag #MisogynistRahul.
At a rally in Rajasthan on Wednesday, the Congress chief had mocked PM Modi saying he had a “mahila (woman)” defend him during the Rafale debate in parliament.
“The watchman with a 56-inch chest ran away and told a woman, Sitharamanji, defend me. I won’t be able to defend myself, defend me. For two and a half hours, the woman could not defend him. I had asked a straight question – answer yes or no – but she couldn’t answer,” said Mr Gandhi, using the word ‘mahila‘ several times.
PM Modi hit back, accusing Rahul Gandhi of insulting “India’s first woman defence minister”.
“For the first time, a daughter of the country has become defence minister. Our defence minister silenced all the opposition parties in parliament (on Rafale) and exposed their lies. They were so stunned that now they are insulting a woman defence minister. They are insulting India’s women power,” the PM said at a rally in Agra.
Later in the evening, Mr Gandhi tweeted a response that turned out to be another specimen of sexism. “Stop shaking, Be a man,” he tweeted.
With all due respect Modi Ji, in our culture respect for women begins at home.
Stop shaking. Be a man and answer my question: Did the Air Force and Defence Ministry object when you bypassed the original Rafale deal?
Yes? Or No? #RafaleScam
– Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 9, 2019
Several BJP leaders have reacted sharply to Rahul Gandhi’s comments.
– Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) January 10, 2019
Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman’s reply to a debate on a subject relating to Ministry of Defence is a new low in the history of Indian politics.
– Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) January 9, 2019
Ms Sitharaman had in parliament responded to Mr Gandhi’s allegations that PM Modi signed an overpriced deal for 36 Rafale jets to help industrialist Anil Ambani, whose inexperienced defence firm won an offset contract with Rafale-maker Dassault.
Mr Gandhi kept accusing the prime minister of avoiding the debate and leaving the minister to defend him.