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'Is he PM candidate of INDI alliance?': Smriti Irani's dig at Rahul Gandhi on debate challenge to PM Modi

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Smriti Irani mocked Rahul Gandhi after he accepted an invitation to debate with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Lok Sabha polls.

Edited By: Arushi Jaiswal @JaiswalArushi New Delhi Updated on: May 12, 2024 11:41 IST
Lok Sabha Elections, Rahul Gandhi, Smriti Irani
Image Source : PTI (FILE) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister and BJP leader Smriti Irani

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Union Minister Smriti Irani took a jibe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after he accepted an invitation to have a public debate with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over key election issues and questioned if "Rahul Gandhi is a PM candidate of the INDI alliance”.

Irani also doubted Gandhi's capacity to confront someone as prominent as Prime Minister Modi in a debate, especially considering his reluctance to contest in his traditional bastion, Amethi.

Notably, Amethi has been a stronghold of the Congress party for decades where party stalwarts like Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and top leader Rahul Gandhi contested successfully. The seat is also known as the Gandhi family bastion until being won by Smriti Irani in 2019 against Rahul Gandhi.

'Is he a PM candidate'

"Firstly, the person who does not have the courage to contest against a normal BJP worker in his so-called castle, should refrain from boasting. Secondly, who wants to sit at level with PM Modi and have a debate, I want to ask him if is he a PM candidate of the INDI alliance?" she asked.

Rahul Gandhi accepts invite for debate

Earlier on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi, a Congress candidate from Kerala's Wayanad and Uttar Pradesh's Raebareli seats, formally accepted the invitation to a public debate with Prime Minister Modi on the Lok Sabha elections, expressing eagerness for either himself or Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge to participate. The invitation was extended by former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur, former High Court Chief Justice Ajit P Shah, and senior journalist N Ram.

The Congress leader said that he and Kharge have agreed that such a debate would help people understand "our respective vision and enable them to make an informed choice".

Replying to the invitation, Gandhi in his letter said, “I have discussed your invitation with the Congress President, Mallikarjun Kharge. We agree that such a debate will help people understand our respective vision and enable them to make an informed choice. It is also critical to put to rest any unsubstantiated allegations attributed to our respective parties.”

“As the principal parties fighting the election, the public deserved to hear from their leaders directly. Accordingly, either myself or the Congress President would be pleased to participate in such a debate,” he added.

Rahul Gandhi said the details and format of the debate can be discussed “if and when the Prime Minister agrees to participate.”

BJP hits back at Rahul Gandhi

Soon after Congress accepted the invitation for a public debate with PM Modi, several BJP leaders, including Tejasvi Surya, reacted to the letter.  

BJP MP Tejasvi Surya said, “Who is Rahul Gandhi, that PM Modi should debate with him? Rahul Gandhi isn’t even the PM candidate of the Congress Party, let alone the INDI Alliance. Let him first get himself declared as Congress’s PM candidate, state he will take accountability for his party’s defeat, and then invite PM for a debate. Until then, we are ready to depute our BJYM spokespersons to take him on in any debate.” 

Former Congress leader, who is a BJP national spokesperson now, Jaiveer Shergill also attacked Rahul Gandhi over the issue.  "Rahul Gandhi track record in Parliament: Attendance : 51% National Average : 79% No of Debates: 8 National Average: 46.7% No of Q’s raised: 99 National Average: 210. Running away from Parliament, Running away from Amethi, Running away from Accountability (leaving post of Party President & not becoming LoP) but still feeling “entitled” to debate PM @narendramodi? Debating with runaway hobby politicians is not worth Modi Ji’s time ! Clearly no one taught Rahul Gandhi the basic rule ‘first deserve then desire’" Shergill wrote on X.

BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya said, “desperate for relevance, after Arvind Kejriwal got interim bail, Rahul Gandhi has now punched above his weight”. Debate is good. But why should anyone, let alone the sitting Prime Minister, debate Rahul Gandhi? He is neither the Congress President nor PM face of I.N.D.I Alliance. The Congress should stop using brand Modi to relaunch Rahul Gandhi.” 

Also Read: 'What is our fault if groom flees before marriage?': Mohan Yadav on Congress candidate's withdrawal in Indore

Also Read: Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Campaigning for fourth phase ends, 96 constituencies to go to polls



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