I Challenge Modi, Shah for Debate, Says Pitroda
New Delhi, March 23— Rahul Gandhi's close confidant Sam Pitroda, who is in the eye of a political storm after his alleged comment questioning the claims about the air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan, said on Saturday that he did not say anything disrespectful of jawans or the armed forces, terming the claims by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top functionaries of the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on his remarks as a blatant lie.
Speaking to IANS in an exclusive interview, Sam Pitroda said that the 40-minute tape of his comments that created a furore is available for everybody, and that if anyone finds anything that "is disrespectful of our jawans or our army, I would be happy to say sorry, if not, then I would challenge them (PM, Jaitley and Amit Shah) for a debate on a public platform".
"What nonsense is this... You can do character assassination on somebody. I have spent 30 years working here. I changed my nationality from being an American to Indian and you want to attack me with lies," he said, adding the 40-minute video does not contain anything even remotely close to what the PM or Amit Shah have said.
"Opposition insults our forces time and again. I appeal to my fellow Indians: question Opposition leaders on their statements. Tell them 130 crore Indians will not forgive or forget the Opposition for their antics," wrote Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sam Pitroda, saying the Congress' royal courtier admits that what the nation already knew – Congress was unwilling to respond to forces of terror.
When IANS asked Pitroda about his take on Balakot strike, he said that it was hard to say. "I only asked question. You said 300 people were killed. I asked for proof. I am entitled for that as a citizen of the country. I am a scientist. I believe in data. In fact, I am not emotional about these things. I want facts. When I read in The New York Times that nobody got killed, you tell me 300 were killed. I want to know. What is the problem, that does not show any disrespect for anybody," he said, adding "I respect our forces, I applaud their sacrifice but I want to ask a question.
Sam Pitroda did not rule out that the entire top BJP machinery's reaction to his comment could be a diversion from the issue of Yeddyurappa diaries. He also said the other reason was that "they (Modi and others) know me well".
"Narendra Modi calls me 'Satyan bhai' (his original name is Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda). He is close to my wife, at a personal level, they know who Sam Pitroda is. They are shaken up that he is going to be here and spend two months in campaign," he said, adding "I have skeletons in my closet. I have no bank accounts. No property. Never goofed up on women. I am sort of a Gandhian, never lied on tax, so anybody else they would put screws on, but they can not do anything to me."
(Gautam Datt can be contacted at [email protected])