Raising voices against the BJP for trying to “silence” the Opposition leaders in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha as Wayanad MP, Congress leaders and workers held protests across the country on Sunday, 26 March.
Party president Mallikarjun Kharge and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the government of “trying to silence” a “martyr’s son” for raising the voice of the people.
Priyanka sought to counter the BJP’s charge that Rahul Gandhi insulted members of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) with the remark for which he was convicted in a criminal defamation case.
She asked how a leader whose family had “given its blood to nurture democracy” and who has walked thousands of kilometres from Kanyakumari to Kashmir — a reference to the Bharat Jodo Yatra — with a message of unity could insult the country or a certain community.
Related: Fighting for the voice of India, says Rahul Gandhi
‘Will not remain silent’
“We have remained silent, but not anymore,” she said, alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders repeatedly insulted her family members but no cases were filed against them.
The BJP, however, slammed the Congress and asked if it was agitating against the country’s Constitution or the law under which Rahul Gandhi was convicted, or to justify his remarks against the entire backward community of the country.
With several other parties condemning the action against Rahul Gandhi, top Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the issue had brought the Opposition together and this unity would grow as days went by.
However, the CPI(M) in Kerala said that it was not supporting Rahul Gandhi but condemning the action against him.
The CPI(M)’s Kerala secretary MV Govindan said the Left party had always taken a stand against undemocratic actions, like the BJP and the RSS using central agencies like the ED and the CBI to target Opposition parties.
“Something like that has happened in Rahul Gandhi’s case. We did not announce support for Rahul Gandhi. We strongly opposed the undemocratic action taken against him,” he told reporters.
Kharge, who led the “Sankalp Satyagraha” protest outside Delhi’s Raj Ghat after the police refused permission to hold it at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial, asked why the BJP was feeling hurt if fugitives Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi were being criticised.
“They talk of OBC now. Is Lalit Modi OBC? Is Nirav Modi OBC? Is Mehul Choksi OBC? They ran away with people’s money. If they are fugitives, why are you pained if they are criticised?” he asked.
“You (the BJP) punish the person who works to save the country and send abroad those who loot the country,” Kharge alleged.
Staunchly defending the former Congress president, Priyanka said no cases were registered when her brother was called Mir Jafar.
संकल्प सत्याग्रह pic.twitter.com/FrQ2IKjOde
— Congress (@INCIndia) March 26, 2023
Related: ‘My name is not Savarkar, won’t apologise’, says Rahul Gandhi
‘Insult to the PM who gave his life’
Asking if a martyred prime minister’s son could insult the country, Priyanka said, “This is an insult to that prime minister who gave his life.”
She said her family gave its blood to the nation, and the Congress was ready to do anything to protect democracy and was not scared.
“If the one who questions is barred from contesting elections for eight years, it is not right for the country or its democracy. The time has come — daro mat (don’t be afraid),” she said.
“Face them and unite and ensure the unity of the country and take it forward,” she asserted amid cheers from the Congress rank and file.
In the national capital, the Congress put up a stage outside Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial for its daylong protest programme with a hoarding having Mahatma Gandhi’s image and “Satyamev Jayate” (truth alone wins) written on it, while in Gujarat several party functionaries were detained for holding a stir.
Protests across country
Congress workers in many states and Union Territories like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat took part in the protests.
Kharge thanked all the Opposition parties for standing with Rahul Gandhi and the Congress to save democracy.
Meanwhile, the BJP hit out at the Congress over its “Sankalp Satyagraha”, alleging that it was agitating against the country’s Constitution and the court’s verdict against Rahul Gandhi to justify his remarks against the entire backward class community of the country.
Rahul was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after a court in Gujarat’s Surat convicted him in a 2019 defamation case.
The disqualification will prevent Rahul (52), a four-time MP, from contesting elections for eight years unless a higher court stayed the conviction.
Also read: Lakshadweep MP moves SC against Lok Sabha Secretariat
On the directions of the AICC, Karnataka’s Congress unit staged a protest opposing in Bengaluru on Sunday.
It was held under the leadership of the AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is also in charge of the state Congress, and Congress Legislative Party leader Siddaramaiah. Elected members and other party leaders were also present.
Congress leaders raised slogans against Modi’s government and also held placards that read “Dethrone BJP to save Democracy”, and “Agitating to save Democracy”.
However, it’s 10 am to 5 pm hunger strike was observed only in some districts in the state.
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar and all the other tall leaders of the party were occupied in poll campaigning activities.
In Hyderabad, Telangana Congress president A Revanth Reddy, party MPs from the state AICC in-charge of party affairs in Telangana Manikrao Thakre and several leaders took part in a dharna at Gandhi Bhavan.
Addressing the “deeksha” programme, Revanth Reddy condemned the disqualification and alleged that the BJP had conspired against Rahul Gandhi for having repeatedly questioned “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (Gautam) Adani’s association”. Rahul Gandhi was disqualified in a haste, he added.
Revanth Reddy labelled the BJP’s double-engine government’ “Adani-Pradhani”.
Uttam Kumar Reddy accused the BJP government of targeting Rahul Gandhi and claimed its main agenda was to protect Adani.
Neither Rahul nor the Congress was scared, he said, and they would continue to raise public issues.
The Puducherry Congress is holding a dawn-to-dusk fast on Monday, former chief minister and senior Congress leader V Narayanasamy said at a rally in the Union Territory.
The former Puducherry chief minister and senior Congress leader said, “The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi is a clear case of political vendetta unleashed by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.”
He added: “The prime minister tried to silence the Opposition but our protests would continue unabated.”
TNCC president KS Alagiri, who led the protest in Cuddalore, termed Rahul’s disqualification an act of injustice and political vendetta.
The disqualification is a deliberate attempt to avoid Gandhi from raking up the Adani issue in Parliament.
Alagiri said there would be more protests including rail roko and street-corner propaganda meetings to make it a people’s movement against the “autocratic” Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Centre.
Speaking to reporters, Alagiri said the post of Member of Parliament was given to Rahul by the people, and it was taken away from him by “individuals” citing rules, and the Congress leader is prepared to face it by going to the people’s court and judiciary.
(With inputs from Mahesh M Goudar and PTI)