Khanna (Pb): Facing a mounting attack from the BJP, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday again rebuked his party's overseas unit chief Sam Pitroda, saying he should be "ashamed" for his "totally wrong" remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and should apologise to the country.
Gandhi's remarks came at his first poll rally in Punjab in an apparent damage control exercise after an uproar over Pitroda's "hua to hua" response to a query on the riots.
The Congress chief had earlier tweeted his disapproval and the party had distanced himself from Pitroda's remarks.
"What Sam Pitroda said about 1984 was totally wrong and he should seek an apology from the country. I am saying this publicly and I also told the same to him over the phone. Pitroda ji, what you had said was completely wrong and you should be ashamed of yourself. You should seek a public apology," Gandhi said towards the end of his speech here.
The BJP stepped up offensive against the Congress over Pitroda's remarks as the 1984 riots is an emotive issue in Punjab which is going to poll on May 19.
During campaigning in Haryana's Rohtak district and in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday had said the comments reflected the "character and arrogance" of the opposition party.
On Sunday in Punjab's Amritsar, BJP chief Amit Shah had asked Gandhi whether the matter has ended with Pitroda tendering an apology for "justifying" the "Sikh genocide.
Gandhi was addressing the rally on Monday in favour of Congress candidate and former bureaucrat Amar Singh who is pitted from Fatehgarh Sahib (reserve) constituency against SAD nominee DS Guru, also a former IAS officer. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was also present at the event.
Gandhi also slammed Modi for demonetisation and the "Gabbar Singh Tax" (Congress' expansion for the term GST), describing them as two "horrific things" brought in by the BJP government. "These decisions adversely hit the purchasing capacity of the people and rendered lakhs jobless," he said.
Gandhi slammed Modi on the Rafale deal and accused him of "failing" to keep his 2014 pre-poll promises, including providing jobs to two crore youths, remunerative prices for farmers' produce and apparently depositing Rs 15 lakh into the bank accounts of every citizen.
"Now Modi does not talk about these promises but the truth will come out before everyone," he said and dared the prime minister for a debate on corruption.
"Initially, he used to talk about corruption. I invited him to debate on this issue. You have 56-inch chest, so come to any place and I will also come. You hold a debate on Rafale deal for just 15 minutes, but Modi is scared I will ask four questions and Modi will not be able to show his face to the country," he said.
On Congress's proposed 'Nyay' scheme that aims to give Rs 72,000 to the poorest families annually, Gandhi said the poverty alleviation scheme will act as a fuel of the economy.
"When it is implemented, India's economic might will once again be witnessed by the world, as Manmohan Singh's contribution to the Indian economy was seen in the past and it was acknowledged by former US president Barack Obama," he said.
"Nyay will not only benefit poor but it will help remonetise the economy. It will not only give justice to youths but also to small traders and people with small businesses. It will jump-start our economy," he said. Gandhi also accused the prime minister of making fun of the MNREGA scheme, claiming that by calling it a useless scheme, he insulted people of the country.
The Congress in its manifesto had promised 150 days of guaranteed work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).