Mounting an elaborate defence of Rahul Gandhi’s first no-holds-bar television interview, largely panned by the Opposition and the twitterati, the Congress on Tuesday said that “even his harshest critics would agree with his sincerity, honesty, passion and commitment to change”.
Appearing rather didactic, Rahul had harped on the need to bring about ‘systematic changes’ that would rout away corruption and empower/encourage women and other marginal segments to come into politics.
He also canvassed at length for enhancing the powers of the elected members-from gram pradhans to MPs - allowing them to participate in the political, legislative and policy-making processes more meaningfully and not as mere “button-pushers” representing various political parties.
However, he got panned for his remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the possible involvement of some Congressmen in it and his attempt to draw a fine line between ‘84 and 2002 Gujarat riots while alleging that the Narendra Modi government had a role in the latter. Also, when asked for an apology for 1984, Rahul waffled, failing to mention that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his party president Sonia Gandhi had both apologised for the same. For a political rapprochement with the Sikh community no doubt.
So it was left to the Congress party to come to its vice-president’s rescue on Tuesday, leaving many to wonder why the party’s strategists did not think it fit to brief Rahul well, before sending him off for a grilling on TV; banking entirely on Priyanka’s ‘tea-and-pakora chat’ with the interviewer, prior to the shoot last Saturday.
Rahul's Comments on Riots Have Many Takers
Rahul’s accusations against Modi, even after the Supreme Court-monitored probe gave a clean chit to him and his govt, is unfortunate and irresponsible .
- Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP leader
For the first time in the country, court cases relating to the riots were transferred to Maharashtra. This is the clearest vote of no-confidence in the Modi Govt .
- Abhishek Singhvi, Congress Spokesperson
Rahul says that Modi was responsible for the 2002 riots because he was the CM. Then what about his father who was the PM when the carnage against Sikhs took place .
- Naresh Gujral, SAD leader
Post facto, the Congress fielded its in-house legal eagle Abhishekh Manu Singhvi to extricate the party and Rahul out of the sticky situation by filling in the gaps of the interview. Little doubt, he had appeared a bit short on facts and politics, even as he passionately argued for long term overhaul of the political system.
Backing Rahul’s stand on 1984 riots, Singhvi said that without discounting that the anti-Sikh mayhem in Delhi following Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards was “terrible”, “it should be remembered that the trials of a large numbers of 2002 riot cases had to be transferred out of Gujarat to Maharashtra” obviously “because justice could not have been delivered in that state”.
Singhvi also pointed out that Modi is yet to come out with an apology for what happened in Gujarat in 2002, even though, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had reminded the Chief Minister of his “rajdharma”.
In the interview, Rahul had claimed that while the Gujarat Government was “involved” in the 2002 riots, the Congress Government tried to quell the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. But Rahul faltered badly when asked why no conviction has happened in the 1984 cases, in some of which Congressmen have been implicated.
It was also left to Singhvi to stress that criminal law “does not make distinction between common people and the leaders of political parties” and that “482 convictions took place in the 1984 riots”. And that the “political careers of a number of very senior Congress leaders was affected” because of the riots.
Apart from the apology, Singhvi claimed that “there has been a reconciliation for the last 20-30 years.” Lashing out at the Opposition and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Singhvi said that the Congress vice-president took “tough questions” while Modi had on many occasions walked out of TV interviews when he faced such queries.
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