Likening union minister Giriraj Singh to people with a “narrow mindset” over his “white skin” remark which suggested she was accepted as party chief due to her skin colour, Congress president Sonia Gandhi declined to comment on it.
As mediapersons sought her reaction to Singh’s remark which caused national outrage, Sonia Gandhi first asked: “What did he say?”
On hearing the full account of Singh’s observation of her, the Congress president said: “I would not like to comment on people who have a narrow mindset.”
Singh, who has stoked various controversies in the past as well, told reporters in Patna that he wondered if former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had married a non-white Nigerian woman, would the Congress party still have accepted her as its president.
“If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian and if she wasn’t white-skinned, would the Congress accept her as a leader,” he said.
Following the outrage triggered by his comment, Singh on Wednesday expressed regret, adding the remarks were made in an off-the-record conversation.
“During off-the-record conversation, there is talk of different kinds. If Sonia ji or Rahul ji have been hurt by my remarks, I express regret,” he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary Ram Madhav on Thursday declared that the matter “ended” with Singh’s clarification about the controversial comment.
Terming the response as “flippant, frivolous, and “flimsy”, the Congress hit back at the BJP.
Party spokesperson Sanjay Jha deplored the “casual and indifferent” approach of the BJP whose leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was still silent despite a volley of reactions from across the political spectrum and the demand for the errant minister’s ouster.
Describing Singh as a “repeat offender”, Jha said: “Despite his previous observation during the campaign trail in 2014 where he asked all non-Narendra Modi supporters to leave India and go to Pakistan, he was rewarded by a post in the cabinet.
“If Modi remains silent this time as well, he is providing ammunition to many others in the party who are prone to making pedestrian remarks against Congress leaders.”
The Congress indicated it will step up pressure on the government over its demand for Singh’s resignation.