New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday alleged that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement endorsing his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for a second term could be a ploy by the Congress to oust him.
Sitharaman, in an interview with news agency ANI, said: “I wouldn’t know why such statements are being made. Every time such statements are made and this is individually my perception and not my party’s or the government’s take. There have been many eminent leaders of the Congress who went there (Pakistan) to seek help to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They went there saying ‘Modi hatane ke liye hamen madad karo’ (help us to oust Modi). I wonder whether this is also a part of the scheme of things which have been put by Congress. I don’t know what to make of this honestly.”
Khan, while speaking to some journalists, had said there may be a better chance of peace talks with India if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the general election. Khan said if the next Indian government were led by the opposition Congress party, it might be too scared to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir. “Perhaps if the BJP — a right-wing party — wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” he added.
Khan's remarks drew sharp reactions from opposition parties in Pakistan as well as in India, with the Congress saying a vote for Modi is a vote for Pakistan. “Pakistan has officially allied with Modi,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.
Pakistan then sought to clear the air and foreign minister Mahmood Qureshi said the statement was taken out of context as "everyone knows" about Khan's reservations regarding PM Modi.
Meanwhile, Sitharaman also called out the rampant sexism in politics in light of Azam Khan’s recent comments on BJP candidate and actor Jaya Prada, saying politicians must apply their minds before speaking on women’s issues.
"It is always easy to hit at a woman when you talk about other things which don’t become part of the conversation or which are not germane to the discussion. You easily pick up on things which are very personal or are gender specific and not called for at all. I find that coming very easily without a thought,” she said.
Strongly condemning Khan’s sexist jibe, the defence minister said that there should be some kind of “momentary application of mind” at least, before one enunciates anything, adding that women politicians often bear the brunt of unwarranted, sexist remarks from their male counterparts.
On Sunday, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Khan had said in a public rally that "I brought her to Rampur. You are a witness that I did not allow anyone to touch her body. It took you 17 years to identify her real face but I got to know in 17 days that she wears khaki underwear."
The Defence Minister further asserted that there should be mutual respect among politicians for one another. "We have to draw a line. Irrespective of the party line I think we have all learnt from good public discourse. It should be in the back of our minds what we talk about in politics as that is the legacy we leave behind for the next generation and we have a responsibility towards it," Sitharaman said.