Just over four years after he made the ‘Modi and thieves’ remark that has now led to his sentence and disqualification from Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi on Sunday termed industrialist Gautam Adani as a “symbol of corruption” in the country and reiterated that despite his disqualification, he would continue to raise questions on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relationship with Adani.
“They (BJP) do not want me to talk in Parliament. They are afraid that I will raise questions on Adani. They disqualified me from Parliament thinking that I will remain silent and I will be scared. I am not scared. I will again ask the Prime Minister,” he said, addressing a massive gathering of Congress workers in Kolar. He said, “Till I get answers, I will not stop. Disqualify me or put me in jail, it will not affect me.”
He was speaking at the Jai Bharath Satyagraha at Kolar, about 80 km from Bengaluru, organised to protest his disqualification and with a call to save democracy. The event was also the first in a series of programmes planned for Mr. Gandhi ahead of Karnataka assembly elections on May 10.
Mr. Gandhi said, “In the Parliament, I questioned the Prime Minister about his relationship with Adani. First, they switched off my mike and later BJP ministers told lies about me. When I sought to respond as per the right of a member, the Speaker did not allow me. They do not want me to speak in Parliament and hence disqualified me.” Mr. Gandhi said that for the first time in history, ruling party members stalled the Parliament where as it is the opposition that normally obstructs the proceedings.
Controversial remark from 2014
It was on April 13, 2019, during the Lok Sabha poll campaign that Mr. Gandhi — who was elected to the Parliament from Wayanad in the same elections — made the now controversial remark. Speaking at an election rally in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) in Kolar district on alleged corruption and bad governance under Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014, he had asked why all thieves had the Modi surname, listing out Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He was campaigning for seven-time MP from Kolar and former Union minister K.H. Muniyappa, who eventually lost to BJP candidate S. Muniswamy in an election that saw the BJP winning 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.
Mr. Gandhi was convicted in the defamation case by a Surat court that sentenced him to two years imprisonment, resulting in disqualification. The court, which was hearing a petition filed by BJP MLA from Surat West and former minister Purnesh Modi, has suspended the sentence by 30 days to enable Mr. Gandhi to appeal against the order.
Rahul responds to OBC debate
Responding to accusations that he insulted the OBCs through his statements, Mr. Gandhi challenged the Prime Minister to reveal the details of caste census conducted in 2011 so that all the communities could be part of development.
“Give reservation to SC/STs based on their population. I challenge you to increase the reservation matrix beyond 50%. Just about 7% of Government of India secretaries come from OBC, SC and ST communities. Accept the challenge, then we can debate whether I insulted OBCs or not,” he said.
Earlier, inaugurating the event, AICC President Mallikarjuna Kharge, said that when questions were raised against Adani to protect the public sector undertakings, an FIR was filed and later court pronounced Mr. Gandhi guilty.
Among others, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, KPCC President D.K. Shivakumar, AICC General Secretary Randeep Surjewala and K.C. Venugopal were present.