Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad at the launch of the Kisan Yatra in Rudrapur of Uttar Pradesh's Deoria district on Sept. 6, 2016.
Khat Sabha fiasco: Rahul Gandhi takes swipe at BJP, compares cot-stealing villagers to Vijay Mallya. In picture: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad at the launch of the Kisan Yatra in Rudrapur of Uttar Pradesh's Deoria district on Sept. 6, 2016.IANS

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday took a swipe at the BJP following the Khat Sabha fiasco on Tuesday, drawing a comparison between business tycoon Vijay Mallya and the people who took away the khatiyas — wooden four-legged cots — brought for the sit-in meeting that was part of the Kisan Yatra, or farmers' rally, he has undertaken in the run up to the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. 

Speaking on the second day of the Kisan Yatra, Rahul also took on journalists as part of his attack. He said on Wednesday: "Media aur BJP ke logon ne kaha dekho kisaano ne charpaiyan chori kar li [The media and BJP members said farmers stole the cots]."

He added: "Jab kisan charpai uthata hai use aap chor kehte ho. Aur jab Vijay Mallya Rs. 9,000 crore lekar chala jata hai use defaulter kehte ho." Translation: "When a farmer takes a cot, you call him a thief. And when Vijay Mallya takes away Rs. 9,000 crore, you call him 'defaulter'."

Keen-eyed readers will have spotted at least three factual errors in the second part of the statement, which cannot exactly be put down to semantics. For starters, Mallya hasn't exactly taken away that amount. He owes banks that much, and the authorities have already frozen a sizeable portion of his assets in India to recover a part of that amount.

Second, it is hardly news outlets or the BJP that have called him a "defaulter." If they did, Mallya would have had every right to sue anybody who referred to him by that term for defamation. And that brings us to the third part. The term "defaulter" has been applied to Mallya by the banks he owes money to. 

Tuesday's incident — coming as it did on the first day of the Kisan Yatra — had left the Congress in general and Rahul in particular red in the face because the cots had not actually been bought by the organisers of the Khat Sabha, but rented for Rs 700-1,000 apiece. See for yourself what happened.

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