Rahul Gandhi was at his combative best on Saturday, 25 March, a day after he was disqualified from the Lok Sabha.
The Congress leader and former MP from Wayanad, Kerala, launched a broadside at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government and sought to know the relationship between the prime minister and industrialist Gautam Adani.
Despite several questions about his disqualification and his conviction in a criminal defamation case, Rahul Gandhi kept his statements focused on the relationship between Prime Minister Modi and Adani and repeatedly asked where the “₹20,000 crore in Adani’s firms came from”.
Addressing a crowded news conference in New Delhi, Gandhi said he would keep questioning industrialist Gautam Adani’s business empire and its relationship with Modi.
“Adani has shell companies, which have invested ₹20,000 crore, and it is not Adani’s money,” he said, adding that he was demanding an investigation into the source of the money.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t want it (a probe) and that’s why I am enquiring about the relationship between Modi and Adani,” he said.
‘PM Modi is scared’
Gandhi claimed that he was disqualified from the Lok Sabha because Prime Minister Modi was scared of his next speech on the Adani issue.
He alleged that the “whole game” was to distract the people’s attention from the panicked government. He said neither disqualification nor jail could scare him.
The Lok Sabha secretariat disqualified Gandhi a day after a court in Surat, Gujarat, awarded him a two-year jail term in a 2019 defamation case on Thursday, 23 March.
“Even if they permanently disqualify me, I will keep doing my job. I will keep asking these questions,” he added.
Gandhi thanked all Opposition parties for their support. He asserted that all of them would work together.
Cutting across party lines and ideological differences, Opposition party leaders, including the likes of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee, condemned Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification.
Related: Why no one can disqualify Gandhi from Wayanad’s heart
“I am Gandhi, not Savarkar”
To a specific query on whether he wanted to apologise for his 2019 comment on ‘Modi surname’, he said that his name is not Savarkar — a swipe at BJP-RSS’ icon VD Savarkar.
“My name is not Savarkar. My name is Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi never apologies,” he said, referring to the mercy petitions VD Savarkar purportedly wrote to the British.
Several BJP leaders, including Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan and Telangana unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar, had demanded a public, unconditional apology from Gandhi for insulting all those with the surname Modi.
The disqualification from the Lok Sabha will bar Gandhi, a four-time MP, from contesting polls for eight years unless a higher court stays the trial court order.
Related: Allies, rival parties alike decry Rahul Gandhi disqualification
Democracy under siege
Gandhi said the Indian democracy is under attack and examples keep manifesting from time to time.
“I have said several times that there is an attack on democracy. Each day we are getting new examples,” he stated.
“I went to Parliament with proof, which I had gathered from media reports. There is evidence of Adani and Modi’s relationship. My speech was expunged from Parliament records. I wrote to the Speaker, point by point, saying airports were being given to Adani after altering the rules. I wrote the letter and nothing changed,” he said.
Related: Fighting for the voice of India, says Rahul Gandhi
Gandhi said ministers started spreading canards about him in Parliament after his letter to the Speaker. They lied that I have colluded with foreign powers. I asked the Speaker if there is a rule to respond to the allegations.
“I did not get any response,” he alleged.
He further said that he spoke to the Speaker in his chamber. “I can’t do anything, the Speaker said with a smile,” Gandhi claimed.
“I am fighting for India’s democracy and I am not afraid of anything. It is the truth,” he asserted.
He refused to comment on his disqualification. “I won’t talk about legal matters here. I respect the judiciary,” he added.
Gandhi further said that he would write to the people in Wayanad. I have a family relationship with them. I will write to the people of Wayanad,” he said.