Sam Pitroda quits Congress post after his racial analogy triggers storm

Modi accuses Congress of trying to divide nation on the basis of skin colour; Congress distances itself from Pitroda’s comments and calls them “most unfortunate and unacceptable”

Updated - May 09, 2024 01:33 am IST

Published - May 08, 2024 07:35 pm IST - New Delhi

Sam Pitroda. File

Sam Pitroda. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP’s frontal attack on the Congress on Wednesday after Sam Pitroda, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, made a controversial statement to depict India’s diversity and accused the Congress of a racist mindset and trying to divide the nation on the basis of skin colour.

As a battery of BJP leaders, including Chief Ministers, joined in and the issue snowballed into a major controversy, the Congress distanced itself from Mr. Pitroda’s comments and called them “most unfortunate and unacceptable”. By late evening, Mr. Pitroda resigned as the Indian Overseas Congress chief, nudged by the party leadership.

Allies of the Congress such as D. Raja of the CPI and Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party too targeted Mr. Pitroda, with Mr. Raja stating that the Overseas Congress leader “gave a handle to the right wing forces to attack”.

In a podcast, Mr. Pitroda, while describing the diversity of India, had said that the “people in the east look like the Chinese, people in the west look like the Arabs, people in the north look like, maybe, white and people in the south look like Africans.”

“It does not matter. All of us are brothers and sisters. We respect different languages, different religions, different customs, different food,” Mr. Pitroda added.

The BJP immediately latched on to the comment, with the Prime Minister raising it at his rallies in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

“I do not get angry if someone abuses me. Today, the philosopher of ‘shehzada’ [prince] has inflicted such a big abuse that I am full of anger. Will people’s abilities in our country be decided by the colour of their skin? Who has allowed the shehzada to play this game of skin?”Mr. Moldi asked.

He linked the Congress’s opposition to Droupadi Murmu’s presidential bid to this mindset, which saw her as an “African” because of her dark skin.

‘Do they have the guts?’

Mr. Modi also said if Congress Chief Ministers of Karnataka Siddaramaiah and his Telangana counterpart, A. Revanth Reddy, will accept “such an accusation”. He also asked if Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin will snap the DMK’s ties with the Congress for Tamil pride. “Do they have the guts?” the Prime Minister asked.

In an effeort to contain the damage, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, in a post on X, said, ”The analogies drawn by Mr. Sam Pitroda in a podcast to illustrate India’s diversity are most unfortunate and unacceptable. The Indian National Congress completely dissociates itself from these analogies.” Later, Mr. Ramesh announced that the Congress President has accepted Mr. Pitroda’s resignation over the issue.

But the BJP continued to be unrelenting in its attack and cited how Mr. Pitroda had brushed aside the issue of 1984 anti-Sikh riots with a comment hua toh hua [if it happened, it happened]. BJP spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sudhanshu Trivedi said the Congress was getting more and more unmasked as the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls progressed and the central issue was no longer election but India’s existence. Playing other remarks of Mr. Pitroda at the press conference, the BJP MP said the Congress leader believed that issues like Ram temple and Mr. Modi going to temples posed a challenge to India’s democracy.

At another press conference, Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar recalled Mr. Pitroda’s long association with the Gandhi family and said he was explaining Sonia Gandhi’s and Rahul Gandhi’s idea of India.

In a post on X, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “I am from South India. I look Indian! My team has enthusiastic members from northeast India. They look Indian! My colleagues from west India look Indian! But, for the racist who is the mentor of Rahul Gandhi we all look African, Chinese, Arab and the White! Thanks for revealing your mindset and your attitude. INDI alliance’s shame!”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.