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Former United National Congress MPs Fuad Khan, left and Ramona Ramdial chat during a meeting hosted by political leadership challenger Vasant Bharath at Gaston Court, Chaguanas, last night.

The term ‘knife and fork’ Indian is an insult to all young men and women of East Indian descent whose parents toiled long and hard and made sacrifices to provide their children with an education to allow them to have upward mobility.

So said United National Congress leadership challenger Vasant Bharath at a campaign meeting last night in Chaguanas, where he rubbished the term used on Monday by incumbent leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar when she attacked his slate.

He defended his father and his family against her accusations of dynasty and entitlement politics. Bharath said “they” in the UNC knew the “knife and fork Indian” term really meant “educated” Indians and that such people will have an opinion.

“And that’s the last thing the UNC leadership wants – anyone with an opinion different to the leader’s,” he added.

He said Persad-Bissessar’s remark was a naked display of using caste and class and another attempt at using race rhetoric. He said most Indian parents and others would want to see their children excel and go on to professions and the days of Indian people being sheeplike and submissive were long gone.

Bharath questioned which father would want to see his daughter labouring over a chulha, leepaying the floor or using datwan to brush their teeth. He also said calling people “neemakharam” is obscene.

He asked if people talking about “knife and fork Indian” came to Parliament via bullock cart or BMWs, if they ate “dhal and bath” or ate at the Hyatt or town restaurant, if they drank dharo or Grey Goose and if they smoked Indian Bidis or Cohiba cigars.

“Are they wearing dhoti and kurta or Hugo Boss, using outside latrines or porcelain toilets en suite?”

Bharath added, “Am I not who you alleged to be ‘knife and fork’ Indian and wasn’t it said I could have made the difference between winning and losing the St Joseph seat for UNC and I’m being blamed? In this election, this is the hypocrisy of the current leadership – neck-deep in gobar as Opposition and enjoying every minute of it.

“We hardly hear the Opposition Leader and when we do, she chooses to viciously attack members of her own party. The person who lives in a multi-million-dollar palace, owns a fleet of luxury vehicles and attends a Machel concert in a $5,000 pair of boots has attacked me for being elitist.”

He added, “I’m a grandchild of indentureship and my parents worked hard – like all others – to secure a better quality of life for their children. My father, a professional person, served the people as elected representative for St Augustine from 1966.

“I studied and worked hard and served as a senior executive of major corporations in Europe. I’m proud of my achievements, just as I’m thrilled about the successes of all descendants of slaves and indentured labourers.”

Saying his family wasn’t elitist, he detailed his wife and children’s work history, adding it’s hypocritical to attack successful people when they were speaking of the value of education and establishing a modern, competitive society.

Former UNC MP Fuad Khan, who also spoke, reminded new UNC MPs that what happened to other MPs before will happen to them

“Your turn will come,” Khan said.

He urged the new UNC MPs not to go on Facebook and demonise others.

Khan said Persad-Bissessar never allowed her MPs such as himself and others to sit on the stage for party events but she put national executive members instead.

“I kept saying she will get rid of every MP and bring in the Nat Ex members for 2020 elections – so said, so done.”