Minister of State For Finance Anurag Thakur's remark against former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Gandhi family, while responding to the opposition's attack in parliament over the PM CARES fund, was a "political speech in the worst possible taste," Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said on Friday, after the comment triggered shouting and sloganeering that led to the adjournment of the lower house four times. He alleged the comment was part of the government's attempts to divert attention from real issues.
"Today was a very unfortunate day. The Finance Minister introduced a taxation bill that has some problems with it. I raised objections to the introduction of this bill. There were other issues like PM CARES...The minister began giving reply and then she turned to her MoS (Mr Thakur) to complete the answer on PM CARES," he was quoted by news agency ANI as saying.
"Instead of answering the objections raised, Thakur proceeded to deliver a political speech in the worst possible taste and did not go into any of objections raised but instead attacked everybody from Nehru up to the present-day Gandhi family. Nobody had mentioned these things," he added.
Mr Tharoor said when the focus should be on COVID-19 and Chinese aggression, the BJP is wasting time "on the political abuse of one family which is not even present in the House".
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, MP Rahul Gandhi, are currently abroad for her treatment.
"To my mind, this is a sheer attempt by the government to distract the nation and parliament from real issues being raised," the Lok Sabha member from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram said.
The Congress claims the government has not been divulging details of the expenditure from the fund, which was established earlier this year and received donations for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
"From the high court to the Supreme Court, every court has validated the PM-CARES fund. Little children have contributed to it from their piggy banks. When it comes to talking about PM-CARES, you please do look at the PM National Relief Fund. In 1948, then PM Nehru-ji (Jawaharlal Nehru) ordered the creation of a Prime Minister's National Relief Fund like a royal order. From 1948 till today, it has not been registered. How did it get (foreign contribution) FCRA clearance? The trust is not registered. PM CARES is a registered public charitable trust. This is for 130 crore people. You created a trust for the Gandhi family. Nehru, Sonia Gandhi were members of the PM National Relief Fund. This should be investigated," Mr Thakur said in parliament today.
The remark provoked angry remarks.
"Who is this boy from Himachal," Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury lashed out at Mr Thakur. "How did Nehru come into this debate? Did we take (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi's name? This two-bit chhokra..."
The Congress, demanding an apology from Mr Thakur, staged a walkout.
While Mr Thakur didn't issue an apology, he later said: "I am pained if my words hurt anybody."
The Congress is trying to corner the government in parliament over issues like China's transgression in Ladakh and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
With inputs from ANI