New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and HRD Minister Smriti Irani were on Friday locked in a spat after protests by NSUI workers outside her official residence over derecognition of a student group by IIT Madras.
While Rahul said the derecognition was aimed at 'crushing dissent' and he will fight such attempts, Irani shot back challenging him for a debate on the issue of governance, including education, and accused him of fighting his battles hiding behind NSUI.
"IIT student group banned for criticising the Modi Government. What next? Free speech is our right. We will fight any attempt to crush dissent and debate," Rahul said on the twitter account of his office.
Replying to him in a series of tweets, Irani said, "next time fight ur (your) battles ur (your)self, don't hide behind NSUI. N (And) by d (the) way I'm returning to Amethi soon. See you there."
Challenging Rahul, she said, "give me a time n (and) place n (and) I'm ready to debate everything re (regarding) governance including education." She added, "tell ur (your) men strong arm tactics were tried in Amethi n (and) didn't scare me during Lok Sabha elections. They won't scare me now."
She also said, "yesterday u (you) told NSUI to create disorder where there is order. Today ur (your) goons come to my house as I'm away at work."
The political slugfest erupted after the Indian Institute of Technology Madras was at the centre of controversy over derecognition of a students group, many of whom are Dalits, following a complaint that it was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Irani backed IIT's action, saying the institution has clearly stated that some procedures by the students' organisation was not followed and it knew that Dean will derecognise it for violating norms.
Scores of NSUI workers today protested outside Irani's official residence in Delhi over the issue. The protesters from Congress' students wing raised anti-government slogans and accused the HRD Ministry of being behind the action against the body.