Senior leader Anand Sharma on Monday led an infuriated Congress charge against Prime Minister Modi, slamming him for his veiled barb against the Gandhi family in San Jose, accusing him of fabricating his humble background, and calling him a 'showman PM' -- a reference to Modi's well-attended addresses to Indians abroad, often stage-managed with the precision and expertise of a rock concert.
On Monday, Modi told the crowd at the SAP Center in San Jose: "In our country it doesn't take much for allegations to come up against politicians. Someone made Rs 50 crore, someone's son made Rs 250 crore, someone's daughter made Rs 500 crore, someone's damaad (son-in-law) made Rs 1000 crore...," to titters and applause.
Predictably, Congress has latched on to the 'damaad' part of the speech, believing it to be a jab at Robert Vadra, a flamboyant businessman and the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, accused of improper dealings with India's biggest property developer.
"Criticizing your country outside, on foreign soil, is in poor taste. It is not only deplorable but condemnable. PM indulges in defaming those who have made enormous contributions to this country and has dragged the political narrative of India to a gutter level," Sharma said at a heavily-attended press conference called to counter Modi's remarks in the US.
"It is disturbing to see a great country represented by a showman prime minister," he said. Sharma went on to tell reporters that the ruling BJP government had an unhealthy obsession with Congress Vice President's whereabouts. "We don't ask what Modi ate for dinner, but even if Rahul Gandhi sneezes, they want to know," Sharma said. Gandhi is currently attending a conference in Aspen and his official handle on Twitter tweeted this out.
Very interesting discussions on the global economy &the disruptive power of tech at the conference in Aspen pic.twitter.com/F3emxEQwj4— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) September 28, 2015
The Congress Party also attacked Modi's humble past.
"My father is no longer with us. My mother is over 90 years old now. She does all her work herself. She is not educated, but through television she knows what is happening in the news. When we were young, to get by, we used to go to our neighbours' houses and clean the dishes, fill water," Modi had said during a townhall at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park in California.
"So you can imagine what a mother has to do to raise her children. There are thousands of mothers like that and I salute them," an emotional PM told Zuckerberg.
On Monday Sharma said he believed Modi's family was not well off but the prime minister may have exaggerated his hardships growing up. "What does our Indian culture say? When your parents are older, take care of them. But the PM did not even invite his mother to his swearing in ceremony when he was elected PM. When he was the Gujarat chief minister, he did not live with his aged mother," Sharma alleged.
Sharma also questioned the funding of the largescale Modi events being hosted at various cities abroad. "The Madison Square Garden, Dubai speech, now the SAP Center in San Jose and soon in London's Wembley Stadium. Who is holding these events? Are they being held on state expenses?" Sharma asked.
Congress leader Manish Tewari backed Sharma's attack and said that it would have been worthwhile for the Prime Minister to reflect on scams such as Lalitgate and Vyapam involving BJP leaders and a BJP government before pointing the finger at others.
"There is a government in Delhi whose foreign minister helps fugitives. There is a government in Delhi, which has a government in one state, where 40-odd people have died during the investigation of a public recruitment scam and that government has not bent even an inch. There is a party in Delhi whose government is in office in Rajasthan, where scams worth thousands of crores of rupee are taking place on daily basis," ANI quoted Tewari as saying.
"There is a gentleman, who is the Prime Minister of India today, and who watched thousands of innocent people being slaughtered in a state over which he ruled almost 10 years ago," he added.
"These are also facts, and thus, the Prime Minister should introspect and reflect on these issues as well before making allegations," Tewari said.
"Listening to the Prime Minister's speech I am ashamed. Indian PM after going to California is making fun of his countrymen and and is only praising himself," Congress leader Rashid Alvi said.
Alvi said he had written to Modi after Lok Sabha polls, saying "You say your mother works even today. Then why are you not caring for your mother. Is your salary less that you cannot take care of your mother?"
In his signature style, Modi had asked a packed hall in San Jose: "Aren't you sick of all of this? Aren't you angry? My countrymen, I am standing in your midst. Is there any allegation against me?" The audience responded with a "no" to answer his last question.
Modi's earlier controversial quotes:
Modi has come under attack for making controversial statements during his visits abroad.
During his German visit, Modi had said that India was "begging earlier and will not beg any more", evoking sharp criticism from Congress and some other parties. In Canada, he triggered another controversy by stating that before he became the Prime Minister, it was "scam India" and he inherited filth and corruption.
On his maiden visit to China as Prime Minister in May, he had claimed that people had at one point of time had considered it as "misfortune" to be born in India and ashamed to be called an Indian.
Last month in the UAE, Modi had said, "I have got some problems in legacy... Some things were stalled due to the indecisiveness and lethargy of the governments (in the last)... It is my priority to kickstart those things".