Disqualified because PM Modi is scared over my next speech on Adani: Rahul Gandhi
The Congress leader asserted that he will "continue to ask questions and fight for democracy in India" irrespective of whether he is reinstated or permanently disqualified.
Published: 25th March 2023 01:30 PM | Last Updated: 25th March 2023 06:37 PM | A+A A-
NEW DELHI: Breaking silence over his disqualification from the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at the Narendra Modi-led BJP government reiterating that "democracy is under attack" in India.
Speaking at a press conference, the Congress leader said, "attacks being made on democracy in India, examples of it keep manifesting from time to time," adding that he will keep asking questions on the Adani issue and that "they (BJP) cannot scare me by disqualification or putting me in jail."
The former Congress chief was flanked at the press meet by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel and party general secretaries Jairam Ramesh and KC Venugopal.
The disqualification will bar Gandhi (52), a four-time MP, from contesting polls for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction.
Lambasting PM Narendra Modi, Rahul said that he had been disqualified because "the Prime Minister is scared about my next speech on Adani and that is why this whole game of disqualification, allegations by ministers aimed at distracting people from Adani issue."
The Congress leader said: "This is the whole drama that is been orchestrated to defend the Prime Minister from the simple question- Who's Rs 20,000 crore went to Adani's shell companies? I am not scared of these threats, disqualifications or prison sentences."
Asserting that "democracy has finished in this country", the former Congress chief claimed that he never sought foreign intervention in his remarks made in the UK and accused Union ministers of "lying" against him in Parliament to which he said he wanted to respond but was not allowed.
He also said that the BJP was trying to divert the issue by alleging that he had insulted OBCs and he would continue to ask what is Modi's relationship with businessman Gautam Adani.
"I am here defending the democratic voice of the Indian people, I will continue to do that. I am not scared of these threats, of these disqualifications, allegations, prison sentences. I am not scared of them. These people don't understand me yet, I am not scared of them," he said, attacking the BJP.
"Disqualify me for life, put me inside jail, I will keep going. I will not stop," he said, noting that it makes no difference to him.
"I have been disqualified because the prime minister is scared of my next speech. I have seen it in his eyes," he added.
Further, the Congress leader asserted that he will "continue to ask questions and fight for democracy in India" irrespective of whether he is reinstated or permanently disqualified. The Congress leader also thanked all opposition parties for extending support to him and assured that they would work together.
Asked about the consequences of his disqualification, Gandhi said the Opposition will benefit the most from this "panic reaction of Prime Minister Modi".
"They have handed us this weapon. They got into panic mode that the truth will come out.
They have handed over the biggest weapon to the Opposition because people have a question on their mind, they know Adani is corrupt, and question is why is the prime minister saving this corrupt person," Gandhi said.
He said he will continue to fight for the truth in the country and to defend the democratic nature of this country.
"I will do whatever I have to do to defend the democratic nature of the country. What does that mean? It means defending the institutions of the country, defending the voice of the poor people of the country, it means telling the people of this country the truth about people like Mr Adani who are basically exploiting the relationship with the prime minister," Gandhi said.
He alleged that for the BJP-led government, "country is Adani and Adani is country".
Asked about the BJP's charge that his 2019 remarks that were the centre of the defamation case were an insult to OBCs, Gandhi said he has always talked about brotherhood and the issue was not about OBCs but about Adani and his ties the government.
Responding to BJP's demand for his apology, he said, "My name is not Savarkar, it is Gandhi and Gandhi never offers an apology."
On Friday, Gandhi was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha, a day after his conviction by the Surat court in a defamation case. The Congress leader was sentenced to two years imprisonment in a defamation case filed against him over his 'Modi surname' remark. The court approved Gandhi's bail on a surety and stayed the sentence for 30 days to allow him to approach the higher courts.
In April 2019, he made the remark "how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname" at a Lok Sabha election rally at Kolar in Karnataka.
In his first response, Rahul said in a tweet, "I'm fighting for the voice of India. I’m ready to pay any price." The Congress party came down heavily against the BJP government calling it a "strangulation of democracy." At a high-level meeting, the party decided to hold mass agitations across the country from Monday.
Rahul's disqualification also managed to unite the Opposition as several parties — including the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which has been at loggerheads with Congress — rallied around the Congress leader.
Modi's government has been widely accused of using the law to target and silence critics, and the case in the premier's home state of Gujarat is one of several lodged against his chief opponent in recent years.
Gandhi, 52, is the leading face of the Congress party, once the dominant force of Indian politics, but now a shadow of its former self. He is the scion of India's most famous political dynasty and the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru. But he has struggled to challenge the electoral juggernaut of Modi's party and its nationalist appeals to the country's Hindu majority.
ALSO READ | Rahul refused to say sorry to Surat court, says Gujarat Congress leader
Action against critics
Several senior lawmakers have been disqualified from Indian legislatures in the past, including a state chief minister. Indira Gandhi, Rahul's grandmother, was briefly forced out of the chamber by a court decision in 1977 while she was prime minister.
But legal action has been widely deployed against opposition party figures and institutions seen as critical of the Modi government in recent years.
Gandhi himself faces at least two other defamation cases in the country and a money laundering case that has been snaking its way through India's glacial legal system for more than a decade.
Central investigators last month arrested a top member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which governs New Delhi on allegations he had corruptly benefitted from reforms to the capital's liquor licensing rules.
The party is seeking to supplant Congress as the main opposition to Modi's government and its members have decried the arrest as politically motivated.
Also in February, Indian tax authorities raided the BBC's local offices, weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary on Modi's conduct during deadly sectarian riots decades ago.
The Editors Guild of India said then that the raids were part of a wider "trend of using government agencies to intimidate or harass press organisations that are critical of government policies."
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