Sam Pitroda Reappointed As Indian Overseas Congress Chief

Weeks after his resignation, Sam Pitroda was reappointed as chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress on Wednesday. Pitroda tendered his resignation following some controversial remarks in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections, which were termed “racist” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Pitroda, who is considered a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, resigned from the post on May 8, and his resignation was accepted by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge. “Congress president has reappointed Sam Pitroda as chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress with immediate effect,” AICC general secretary K. C. Venugopal said in a statement.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that Pitroda was reappointed Indian Overseas Congress chief after he clarified the context in which the controversial statements were made. “During the recent election campaign, Sam Pitroda made some statements and comments that were totally unacceptable to the Indian National Congress. By mutual consent, he stepped down as Chairman of the Overseas Indian Congress.

“Subsequently, he clarified the context in which statements were made and how they were later distorted by the Modi campaign. The Congress President has reappointed him on the assurance that he will not in the future leave room for such controversies to arise,” Ramesh said in a post on X.

Following his reappointment, Pitroda said that he could have done a better job choosing the words. In an interview to NDTV, he said that people are not interested in the substance of a conversation, they are interested in the form of the conversation. “It is not about words but about the meaning… but maybe I could have done a better job,” he said.

Pitroda had stoked a major controversy with his remarks during a podcast where he cited ethnic and racial identities like Chinese, Africans, Arabs and Whites to describe the physical appearance of Indians from different parts of the country.

“I have to run my life. They can twist the fact that I live in Chicago and why I am talking about India… I would expect civilised conversation, dialogue… but that is lost… People are not interested in the substance of a conversation, they are interested in the form of the conversation,” he said.

Pitroda said that no one had raised questions about what he meant before jumping to conclusions. “When I made the comment on inheritance tax, I did not mean that I’m proposing inheritance tax. How did you come to that conclusion?,” he said.

“Next time I said something about – my way of saying how diverse we are, people thought it was racial. There is nothing racial in saying that we came from Africa. It is a fact of life. And who says that being black is racist? No. I am dark. My wife is not very dark. So what?” Pitroda told NDTV.

“We tend to make issues out of nothing. And that’s the reason I decided that is better to take myself out,” he added. That was the way to bring back the focus on issues that matter, he further stated.

The BJP made Pitroda’s remarks a poll issue, forcing the Congress to act swiftly and distance itself from his remarks, calling them “most unfortunate and unacceptable.”

With campaigning in full swing ahead of the fourth phase of polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the all-out attack on the Congress on Pitroda’s analogy and slammed his comments as “racist”. He asserted that people will not tolerate the attempt to insult them on the basis of their skin colour.

Controversies 

In the podcast, Pitroda had said, “We have survived 75 years in a very happy environment where people could live together, leaving aside a few fights here and there.” “We could hold a country as diverse as India together. Where 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,” he had said.

Before that, Pitroda’s reference to inheritance tax in the United States while discussing the Congress’ Lok Sabha poll manifesto gave the ruling BJP a potent handle to accuse the opposition party of eying citizens’ assets as part of its “redistribution of wealth” policy.

The saffron party had also accused Pitroda of having a history of making “insulting and demeaning” comments, including on terrorism and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. His “hua toh hua” (so what) reaction to a question on the 1984 communal violence and “it happens all the time” reference to the Pulwama terror attack, both in 2019 as the country was gearing up for the general elections, had also triggered controversy. 

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