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23 Dec 2016

PM scores 'packet' self-goal - Mimicry and swipe help Rahul rake up pay-off charge again

Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, Dec. 22: Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi today found rare common ground on something called "packets" in a riveting exchange of long-distance repartees that ensured attention stayed focused on a corporate bribery charge against the Prime Minister.
Modi referred to a "youth leader" who had only to open his mouth to expose himself. "They (the Congress) have a youth leader. He is learning to make speeches," the Prime Minister told an event in Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency.
A broad smile on his face, he gesticulated with his right hand, mimicking Rahul, and said: "He does like this."
Modi added: "Since the time he has learnt to speak, my joy has been unbound. In 2009, you couldn't tell what was inside this packet and what wasn't. Now we are finding out."
Displaying uncharacteristic street savvy, Rahul lobbed a riposte to the "packet" jibe.
"Modiji, first tell us what was there in those 10 packets," Rahul tweeted, alluding to his demand yesterday that Modi reveal whether he had received payments from corporate groups when he was Gujarat chief minister.
The Prime Minister, speaking on the Banaras Hindu University campus, scoffed at Rahul's claim that there would be an earthquake if he were allowed to speak in Parliament.
"Had he not spoken, there could have been such a huge earthquake that the country would have taken 10 years to recover from it. Now that he has started speaking, it's become clear that there's no possibility of any earthquake happening."
Rahul, who addressed a poll rally in Bahraich, 320km from Varanasi, responded by beginning his speech with a couplet - written by Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib - to suggest Modi was evading direct answers to his questions.
Har ek baat pe kahte ho tum ki tu kya hai/ Tumhi kaho ki ye andaz-e-guftugu kya hai (at every word of mine you ask, 'Who are you?' You tell me what kind of a conversation this is)."
"Yesterday, I was in Gujarat and asked some questions to Modiji about corruption. Instead of answering them, he ridiculed me. He can keep doing so but he should also answer my questions," Rahul said.
The Congress leader also tweeted a scanned document that purported to show payments made to Modi in 2013 and 2014. He claimed it was a document seized by the income-tax department from the Sahara group.
Rahul, who has breathed fresh life into a controversy earlier flagged by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and an NGO, appeared to be concentrating his efforts on highlighting his assertion that the Prime Minister and the BJP had so far desisted from issuing an unequivocal and specific denial.
Today, asked specifically about Rahul's question whether Modi had received money from corporate houses, BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said: "He (Rahul) was the super PM then (in 2013-14 when the alleged payoffs took place). The CBI worked under him. Why didn't he find out? Why has he remembered the issue after four-and-a-half years?"
In Varanasi, Modi tried to turn against Rahul his reported reservations about the drive towards a cashless economy in a country with low literacy levels. "Did I turn the educated into uneducated by magic? If 60 per cent people are uneducated, it's a report card on whom?" he said.
He ridiculed similar comments by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former finance minister P. Chidambaram.
"He (Singh) asked how technology could work in a country where 50 per cent people were poor. Now tell me whether he was giving a report card on his performance or mine," he said.
Modi said that Singh had been "at the core of the country's economic system" since the early 1970s. "People think that nobody can question his integrity because he was finance minister and Prime Minister and had such long experience, but everything (corruption) happened (under him)."
Modi told his audience that Chidambaram had questioned the possibility of a cashless economy taking roots in a country where 50 per cent villages lacked electricity. "Did I remove the electric poles or damage the wires in the villages?" he asked.
He said that as " kala dhan" (black money) was being exposed in the country, so was the "kala mann" (evil mind) of some people. He likened his critics with the Pakistani military and pickpockets.
"They are raising a hue and cry in Parliament, (like) the Pakistanis start firing across the border when they need to help terrorists sneak into India," the Prime Minister said.
He described a trick pickpockets used to play at village fairs in the old days. "While one of them would be stealing from somebody's pocket, another would divert the police's attention by shouting from afar about a thief on the loose. They (the critics of the demonetisation) are using many ploys to save dishonest people."

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