Bengaluru, Karnataka: Winding down an intense campaign for the Karnataka election, Rahul Gandhi today served a searing comeback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's digs at his mother Sonia Gandhi's Italian origin, saying that she "is more Indian than many Indians I have seen".
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The Congress president was addressing a press conference in Bengaluru on the last day of campaigning for the election on Saturday in Karnataka, one of the last major states ruled by the Congress.
NDTV asked the 47-year-old about the perceived "personal attacks" by PM Modi through the campaign, including a barb during an election rally challenging him to "speak for 15 minutes on the achievements of the Congress government - in Hindi, English or your mother's mother-tongue".
"My mother is Italian. She also lived a larger part of her life in India. She is more Indian than many, many Indians I see. She has sacrificed for this country, she has suffered for this country," said Rahul Gandhi.
"It shows the quality of the prime minister when he makes these types of comments. It shows the quality of this man. And I'm happy to let him do so. If he enjoys himself, if he likes it, welcome. Have a nice day."
Speaking on other jabs like "immature" and "Naamdaar (entitled)" used by the Prime Minister repeatedly to deride him, Rahul Gandhi referenced a story in which the Buddha refused to react to an angry man's tirade and told his disciple: "He got me the gift of anger, I didn't want it, I didn't take it."
Rahul Gandhi remarked: "Mr Modi has anger inside him and he has got anger for everybody. Not only for me. I'm a lightning rod of that anger. I attract that anger because he sees a threat from me. But his anger is his problem. It's not my problem. My problem is how to help the people of this country."
The insults, he said, were proof that the BJP was in panic mode as "they have realised that the Congress is doing things differently."
That the PM had laser-focused on him during the campaign was "an insult" to the people of Karnataka, he said.
"This election is not about Rahul. I have now learnt to deal with the prime minister. When he can't respond, he distracts," he said.
The BJP countered with its own press conference, accusing the Congress chief of ducking important issues. "He skirted every single question in that press conference. He did not give any straight answer," said Union Minister Piyush Goyal of the BJP.
The results of voting in Karnataka will be declared on May 15.