"Have Not Said...": Rahul Gandhi On "Wealth Redistribution" Row, PM's Jabs

The Congress leader also hit back at the Prime Minister for being "scared" of his party's promise to ensure equality for 90 per cent of the nation.

'Have Not Said...': Rahul Gandhi On 'Wealth Redistribution' Row, PM's Jabs

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi (File).

New Delhi:

Rahul Gandhi has walked back, partially, from his "wealth survey" remark, as the Congress scrambles to put out the fire caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's allegation - that the party plans to "redistribute wealth to infiltrators" - and senior leader Sam Pitroda's remarks on the subject.

At a party event in New Delhi, the Congress MP said, "I have not said we will take action yet... I am just saying let's find out how much injustice has been done." Mr Gandhi was referring to plans by his party and the INDIA opposition bloc to conduct a national caste survey should it win the election.

This exercise will include an economic and institutional report, and is an "important step" in understanding how different sections of the society had developed over the years and what is needed to ensure socio-economic justice and equality for all groups, Mr Gandhi indicated.

"Don't think the caste census is just a survey of castes. We will also add an economic and institutional survey to it. After 70 years, it is an important step, we should assess what is the situation now and what direction we need to take. We will implement this..." he said.

Mr Gandhi also threw in a counter-swipe at PM Modi and his BJP, chuckling, "So, did you like the Congress manifesto? You must have seen the PM has panicked... it is a revolutionary manifesto."

PM Modi "Scared", Claims Congress

The Congress leader then hit back at the Prime Minister for being "scared" of his party's promise to ensure equality for 90 per cent of the nation; he was referring to marginalised groups like Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and Other Backward Classes, crores of whom are among the poorest sections.

In March Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge underlined the Congress' aim in this context. Pointing out that "India's poorest 50 per cent get only 15 per cent of the national income..." he said the Congress would use the data so gathered to fine-tune the government's welfare programmes.

"Injustice is being done to 90 percent of Indians. (But) the moment I called for checking and correcting this injustice, the Prime Minister and the BJP started attacking me," Mr Gandhi declared.

"Manmohan Singh Said Muslims Have..."

The row over the Congress' promise to ensure wealth and income equality erupted after the Prime Minister's election speech in Rajasthan's Banswara. In comments now reported to the Election Commission, Mr Modi had said, "... Congress says they will calculate gold with mothers and sisters... and re-distribute that... Manmohan Singh's government said Muslims have first right..."

READ | Row After PM Says "Congress To Distribute Assets Among Infiltrators"

To back its allegation, the BJP posted an old video of former Prime Minister Dr Singh addressing a government body meeting, in which he said underprivileged sections, including SCs, STs, and OBCs, as well as Muslims, must be "empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development".

NDTV FACT CHECK | Has Congress Really Promised 'Wealth Redistribution'?

The Prime Minister's comments - repeated a few days later - triggered a massive storm, with the Congress and other opposition parties, accusing him of spreading "lies" about the manifesto.

This was after Mr Modi labelled the Congress' manifesto a "Muslim League imprint".

Sam Pitroda's Inheritance Tax Row

The Congress' senior leader, Mr Pitroda, waded into this when he told news agency ANI "(For the Prime Minister) to say they (his party) will steal your gold... you are making stories up on your own."

READ | PM Jab On Pitroda's "Inheritance" Remark Takes LIC Tagline Cue

He cited an example from the United States - the inheritance tax - which says a portion of large financial inheritances is taken by the government. "(The law) says you, in your generation, made wealth... and you must leave your wealth for the public... half of it, which sounds fair," he said.

The BJP pounced on Mr Pitroda's comment - welcome ammunition in an already tense election season - to renew its attack on the Congress. Home Minister Amit Shah tore into his rival, claiming it meant the Congress wanted to seize 55 per cent of an individual's wealth and re-distribute it.

READ | Congress In Firefighting Mode Amid Row Over Sam Pitroda's Remarks

Mr Pitroda has since clarified his comment, posting on X (formerly Twitter), "I mentioned US inheritance tax in the US only as an example in my normal conversation on TV. Can I not mention facts?"

"I said these are the kind of issues people will have to discuss and debate. This has nothing to do with policy of any party, including Congress," he said hitting back at "Godi media" for diverting attention.

"Who said 55 per cent will be taken away? Who said something like this should be done in India? Why is the BJP and (the) media in panic?... (my words) twisted to divert attention from what lies the PM is spreading about the Congress manifesto. Comments about gold snatching is simply unreal."

Congress Eases Away From Pitroda

An increasingly battered Congress has since sought to distance itself from Mr Pitroda's remark, but has declared the entire row has underlined how rattled the Prime Minister and the BJP are.

"Mr Pitroda expresses his opinions freely on issues he feels strongly about... this does not mean his views always reflect the position of the Congress," party spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said, accusing the BJP of "sensationalising" the remarks in a "desperate attempt at diverting attention away from Mr Narendra Modi's malicious and mischievous election campaign". 

This back-and-forth between the Congress and the BJP - over wealth re-distribution and Mr Pitroda - comes as the country preps for the second phase of the Lok Sabha election. Voting will be held on Friday, with five more phases to follow. The first phase was on April 19.

Results will be declared on June 4.

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