Soon after Rahul Gandhi’s maiden speech in Lok Sabha as Leader of the Opposition (LoP) — where he launched a no-holds barred attack on the BJP — Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju met Speaker Om Birla to discuss certain contentious issues in the Congress leader’s speech, it is learned.

This was followed by the BJP fielding Rijiju, Railways and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Rajya Sabha MP Sudhanshu Trivedi to rebut Gandhi’s allegations against the government.

Together, at a press conference, the three leaders took on Gandhi, raising the issues flagged at the meeting with Birla.
Accusing Gandhi of “enjoying power but not taking responsibility”, Vaishnaw said Gandhi, as his first time as LoP, had behaved in “a shallow and dramatic manner” and “made extremely irresponsible statements”.

“Rahul ji said that under the Agniveer scheme the martyrs are not given any compensation. There is no bigger lie than this. Today the Defense Minister made it clear in the House itself that under the scheme, martyrs get Rs 1 crore compensation,” said Vaishnaw, adding this was not the first time that Congress had raised questions over the Army.

On Gandhi’s remarks — that “those who call themselves Hindus… are engaged in violence and hate” — Vaishnaw said the Congress leader had humiliated the “entire community”.

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“Today Rahul Gandhi has called the entire Hindu society violent and untruthful. He has humiliated the community. Even this is not new. In 2010, then Home Minister P Chidambaram had called Hindus terrorists. In 2013, then Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had called Hindus terrorists. In 2021, Rahul ji had said that Hindutva-vadis should be thrown out of the country,” Vaishnaw said.

Meanwhile, the RSS, too, slammed Gandhi’s statement. “Association of violence with Hindutva by those holding important posts in Parliament is very unfortunate. Be it the Hindutva of Vivekananda or that of (Mahatma) Gandhi, it has always been identified with harmony and brotherhood. Such comments on Hindutva are not good,” RSS publicity in-charge Sunil Ambekar said in a statement.

At the press conference, targeting Gandhi, Vaishnaw said the Congress leader had not made any constructive suggestion in the House. “He did not speak about how NEET can be improved. He spoke about Dalits, but 54 Dalits died in a liquor tragedy (in Tamil Nadu), did he speak about them?” the minister said.

But Vaishnaw reserved his harshest criticism for Gandhi’s comments about Speaker Birla for “bowing down” before PM Narendra Modi. “The way Rahul ji commented on a constitutional post… is very sad. Even this is not new. Let’s remember how he tore the ordinance of his own Government… Let’s also remember how the Constitutional system of the Prime Minister was run through the non-Constitutional system of the National Advisory Council ((under UPA). To weaken Constitutional systems is nature of Congress ,” Vaishnaw said.
He also accused Gandhi of trying to make a misleading statement on Ayodhya. “A compensation of Rs 1,253 crore has been given to 4,215 affected shopkeepers. Shops have even been relocated,” he said.

Rijiju said Birla has been requested to ask Gandhi to authenticate the statements he made. “If he (Gandhi) is unable to authenticate, he will have to apologise,” Rijiju said.

Trivedi also suggested Gandhi expressed regret. “On January, 20, then Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said in Jaipur that RSS and BJP are indulging in violent activities and running training camps. When he was questioned in Parliament, he expressed regret. I think learning from Shinde ji, Rahul Gandhi ji should express regret,” he said.