Home Minister Amit Shah won't apologise for "lying" about Kalavati, will he?
The Lok Sabha is unlikely to admit a breach of privilege motion against Shah for misleading Parliament, but Opposition MPs have been suspended, pulled up, expelled and disqualified for far less
While speaking on the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 9 August, Union home minister Amit Shah took a dig at a certain unnamed ‘leader’, who he alleged had been "launched in politics 13 times and yet failed". The BJP MPs tittered at this epithet.
The home minister recalled that said leader had called on a poor woman, Kalavati, and ate with her. He had also spoken about her poverty and plight in Parliament. But although the UPA government continued to be in office for the next six years, nothing was done for her, Shah claimed. It was Narendra Modi who provided her with a roof above her head, grain, electricity, water and toilet, he added. At this, the treasury benches broke out into chants of "Modi! Modi! Modi!".
Delivering the punchline, the home minister added that even the woman visited by the ‘leader’ had no trust in him or his party: "Even she had more trust in Modi-Ji." The video of the home minister speaking can be seen here:
While Amit Shah did not take anyone’s name, the reference was clearly to Rahul Gandhi. Kalavati Bandurkar was a farm widow from Yavatmal in Vidarbha (Maharashtra), living in distress. Her indebted husband had died by suicide. Rahul Gandhi had visited her and spoken about the distress of farmers in the Lok Sabha in 2008.
The visit had led to extensive media coverage, and help also poured in.
Interestingly, the lady herself spoke out hours after Amit Shah had spoken, and in media interviews asserted that she owed everything to Rahul Gandhi, that his visit changed her life!
She initially received a sum of Rs 3 lakh and a house. Thereafter an NGO, Sulabh International, gave her Rs 25 lakh as a fixed deposit, which continues to sustain her household—the interest of Rs 15,000 a month is her 'income' now. It used to be more, until the interest rate was reduced to 4.4 per cent recently.
Mistaking Amit Shah for Narendra Modi in an interview on Thursday, 10 August, the lady said that Modi was speaking nonsense, that she had received nothing from Modi. She had last added two rooms to her house in 2013–14, she said.
Several videos of Kalavati setting the record straight have surfaced. Some of the links are shared here:
Kalavati had expressed a wish to meet Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra when it passed through Maharashtra. In November last year, she did meet him at Washim. “I presented him with a bouquet. He asked about the welfare of other members in the family and I told him that all was well,” she told an interviewer.
Indian National Congress leaders were quick to share her interviews on social media and called out the home minister’s lies.
But while Rahul Gandhi and several Opposition leaders have been suspended, censured and disqualified from the House for far less, the Speaker is unlikely to refer a motion against Amit Shah to the Privileges Committee.
The home minister, of course, is unlikely to apologise.