"South Indians Look Like Africans...": Sam Pitroda Embarrasses Congress Again

The remark has been slammed by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who posted on X, " Sam bhai, I am from the northeast, and I look like an Indian. We are a diverse country..."

New Delhi:

Senior Congress leader Sam Pitroda - whose comment last month about an inheritance tax in the United States sparked a massive fight with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party - has triggered another row in his attempt to make a pitch for national unity. 

In an exclusive interview with The Statesman, Mr Pitroda described India as a "... diverse country... where people on East look like Chinese, people on West look like Arab, people on North look like maybe White and people in South look like Africa". 

The Congress has distanced itself from the remark.

"The analogies given by Sam Pitroda to India's diversity are extremely wrong and unacceptable. The Indian National Congress completely disassociates itself from these analogies," senior leader Jairam Ramesh said on X.

Mr Pitroda's remark drew a furious response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who demanded a response from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, saying that the country "won't tolerate disrespect on the basis of the colour of skin".

READ | PM's Retort To Sam Pitroda's Racist Flub, BJP Leaders' 'Look Indian' Posts

Repeating his "shehzade (prince)" barb for Mr Gandhi, the Prime Minister said, "Shehzade, you will have to answer. The country will not tolerate the disrespect of our countrymen on the basis of the colour of skin. Modi will definitely not tolerate it."

The remark has also been slammed by senior BJP leaders, including Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and his Assam counterpart, Himanta Biswa Sarma, who posted on X, " Sam bhai, I am from the northeast, and I look like an Indian. We are a diverse country - we may look different, but we are all one."

"Hamare desh ke bare mein thoda to samajh lo! (Please understand at least something about our country)" the senior BJP leader hit back at Mr Pitroda.

Actor-politician Kangana Ranaut, the BJP's Lok Sabha candidate from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, also responded, accusing Mr Pitroda of making "racist" and "divisive" comments. 

"Sam Pitroda is Rahul Gandhi's mentor. Listen to his racist and divisive jibes for Indians. Their whole (the Congress') ideology is about divide and rule. It's sickening to call fellow Indians Chinese and African. Shame on Congress!" she said.

BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla called Mr Pitroda's comment "shocking, despicable and disgusting".

"He is the mentor of Rahul Gandhi. It is the word, spirit, vocabulary and ideology of Rahul Gandhi... First, they divided on the basis of caste, religion and language. Now, they are dividing Indian vs. Indian. And to make a comment like Indians are like Chinese, isn't it a racist comment? Isn't it insulting and objectionable ? It shows 'Congress ki Mohabbat ki Dukan actually has 'nafrat' and 'racism ka saman'..."

Mr Pitroda was responding to a question about what the Congress has tried to make one of the fundamental issues of the 2024 Lok Sabha election - that the BJP, should it win this poll, will look to alter the basic nature of the country's socio-economic fabric, including by changing the Constitution.

Mr Pitroda referred to a "really divided country today based on ideas of India", and said, "It is not a question of who is right or wrong... but a question of what you believe in."

"... there is another view that says our founding fathers fought the British Raj not for a Hindu nation but for a secular nation. Pakistan decided to make a nation based on religion... you can see how that is going. We are a shining example of democracy in the world. We have survived 70-75 years in a very happy environment, leaving aside a few fights here and there," he said.

"... we are all brothers and sisters, we respect different languages, religions, customs, and food. As a Gujarati, I love dosa. So, if I go to Tamil Nadu and speak the local language, it is ok. I am still at home... that is my India, rooted in democracy, freedom, liberty, and fraternity," he declared. 

This view, Mr Pitroda declared, "is being challenged by one that includes the Ram Temple and Ram Navami and the PM going to temples all the time and talking not as a national leader, but that of the BJP".

This comes days after the BJP ripped into the Congress over Mr Pitroda's comments over an inheritance tax. 

Mr Pitroda's comments then came as the Congress fended off a vicious attack by the BJP, which was sparked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks about Muslims, and claims of "wealth redistribution... to those who have the most children... to infiltrators". Mr Pitroda then, speaking to news agency ANI, had said the Congress always helps people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, and cited the inheritance tax in the United States as an example of "...new policies so concentration of wealth can be prevented".

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

The BJP had hit back fiercely, with several of its leaders taking aim at Mr Pitroda over his comments and allegations of the Congress' "wealth redistribution" plans, which the party firmly denied. 

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

The Congress, on that occasion, had distanced itself from Mr Pitroda's comments, with senior communications figure Jairam Ramesh saying, "this does not mean Mr Pitroda's views always reflect the position of the Indian National Congress".