NEW DELHI:Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit’s comment likening the army chief to a “goon” was denounced today by the government, which demanded an apology from party chief Sonia Gandhi and accused the Congress of “consistently” shaming and demoralizing the army.
“We condemn it and demand that the Congress leadership, especially Sonia Gandhi, come out and disown the leaders who are continuously insulting the army. They must apologise,” said Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, questioning whether it was a “Congress strategy to undermine the army’s confidence”.
The minister added, “They shame and demoralise their own army. The kind of words…the latest bout of words shocks me and my party…These are coming from eminent leaders of the (Congress) party, a party which governed us for the last 60 years.”
Mr Dikshit, a former Congress lawmaker and the son of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, has apologized after using the words “Sadak ka goonda (street goon)” for Army Chief Bipin Rawat.
“Ours is not a mafia Army like Pakistani army which makes statements like goons on the street. It looks bad when our Army chief gives a statement like a sadak ka goonda,” Mr Dikshit had said. The comment made to a journalist generated outrage and widespread criticism.
The Congress leader was apparently referring to General Rawat’s statement defending an army officer’s decision to strap a civilian to the front of his jeep as a “human shield” against stone-throwing protesters in the Kashmir Valley.
Among the first to react was Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, who tweeted: “What’s wrong with Congress? How dare Congress call Indian Army chief as ‘sadak ka gunda’!!”
Mr Dikshit said last evening: “I was believing that the Indian army chief was making statements in the past few days that I believe does not behave the gentlemanly character of the Indian army. It was a comment on the chief and not the army… I think what I said was wrong so I apologise for it and withdraw my statements.”
The Congress has distanced itself from Mr Dikshit’s comments.