The Congress party held protests across the country on Sunday, with its leaders in multiple States linking Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha to his unrelenting questioning of the Adani group and its alleged links to the ruling party. In a day-long Sankalp Satyagraha, Congress leaders said that the party’s campaign for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the Adani Group and its linkages would continue. They will attend Parliament and State assemblies wearing black clothes on Monday.
Mr. Gandhi himself did not join the protest in Delhi, where his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra launched a scathing attack against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. Claiming that the country’s democracy had been nurtured by the blood of her family, Ms. Vadra asked why the entire government machinery had come together to protect one businessman who has thousands of crores of rupees in shell companies. Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “coward”, she challenged the government to send her to jail.
“The democracy of this country has been nurtured by the blood of my family. Those who think that they will intimidate us by humiliating us, conducting raids by agencies, they think wrong. We are not afraid,” she said, speaking at Rajghat.
Ms. Vadra said the disqualification was hastened after Mr. Gandhi raised questions about business tycoon Gautam Adani’s close ties with the PM in the Lok Sabha.
“Who is this Adani? You are giving away the country’s wealth to him. He has thousands of crores in shell companies. You can’t even order an inquiry against him? The entire government gets rattled by his name,” Ms. Vadra said.
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‘Son of the martyr’
She said that her father had been insulted in parliament. “The son of the martyr was called ‘Mir Jafar’. BJP’s CM asks who is his father? PM raises questions on ‘Nehru surname’ in Parliament? There is no case against you, your membership is not cancelled,” she said.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge thanked the Opposition parties for standing in support of Mr. Gandhi. He asked, “If Adani earns ₹12 lakh crore in just two and a half years, then it is necessary to ask: Where did this money come from? Who gave this money?” He added, ”Rahul Gandhi ji is fighting for the people of this country, for you, for the women, for the youth. Fighting against unemployment and inflation.”
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‘Playing OBC card’
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that in 2017, when the BJP was losing the Gujarat elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had played the OBC (Other Backward Classes) card against the Congress there. “Modi ji today again wants to run a campaign to mislead the OBCs. I am an OBC and a Chief Minister. Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel is also an OBC. What can be a bigger proof than this?” Mr. Gehlot remarked.
Senior leaders K.C. Venugopal, P. Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid, Jairam Ramesh, Mukul Wasnik, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Saktisinh Gohil, Jothimani, Pratibha Singh and Manish Chatrath were also present at the protest site. Congress leader Udit Raj said, “Neither Nirav Modi is an OBC, nor Lalit Modi is an OBC nor the one who lodged the FIR, Purnesh Modi, is an OBC. BJP is defaming OBCs and they themselves do not belong to OBCs.”
Protest permission denied
Earlier in the day, the Congress party alleged that Delhi Police had denied them permission to hold the protest at Rajghat. Confirming the development, a senior police officer said that Section 144 of the CrPC (prohibits assembly of more than four persons) is always imposed around Rajghat and the permission is always denied.
“Although, if someone is protesting in a peaceful manner without disturbing the law and order, they are not stopped. Congress’ protest is going on and keeping that in mind, sufficient security arrangements have been made,” the officer said.
Centre’s ‘visceral fear’
Kerala Pradhesh Congress Committee president K. Sudhakaran inaugurated the satyagraha at the Gandhi Park in Thiruvananthapuram. He said that the Central government’s visceral fear that Rahul Gandhi would expose the “Modi-Adani nexus” in Parliament had resulted in the hasty debarment barely a day after the court sentenced him in a defamation case.
The convenor of the Congress-led United Democratic Front M.M. Hassan, MPs Kodikunnil Suresh and Shashi Tharoor and other senior State leaders were present.
The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee organised protests in 70 out of 76 districts, with TNCC president K.S. Alagiri leading the protest in Cuddalore district. Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram charged that the BJP would not try to evict Mr. Gandhi from his MP bungalow and get the Election Commission to notify the byelection for Wayanad Parliamentary seat along with the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections.
Protests were also held in Chandigarh and Shimla. Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that there was no place for vengeance in a democracy. “BJP is doing vendetta politics against Rahul Gandhi, but the Congress is ready to fight against it on the path of Satyagraha,” he said.
Punjab’s Leader of the Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa called on all the opposition political parties in the country to stand firm against such a draconian approach of the BJP-led Union Government.
“If all the opposition political parties failed to get together after the sheer undemocratic stance of the BJP, leaders of other political parties would face similar consequences,” Mr. Bajwa said.
‘Voice of the people’
In Nagpur, Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole said that if Mr. Gandhi’s statement calling fugitive businessmen and economic offenders Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi “thieves” was a mistake, then the Congress would repeatedly commit the same ‘offence’ in the future as well. Maharashtra Congress leaders wore black armbands as part of the satyagraha.
“Rahul Gandhi has acted as the voice of the people in questioning Mr. Adani’s ill-gotten gains and the links between him and the PM. So, what was the need for Mr. Modi to overreact when the Congress posed certain questions instead of clearing his stance? Our satyagraha today is to protest the conspiracy hatched by the BJP against Mr. Gandhi,” said Mr. Patole.
Declared economic offenders
Refuting the BJP’s charge that Mr. Gandhi had insulted the OBC Modi community as “bizarre”, the Congress leader said that Mr. Gandhi had called Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi as thieves after they had been declared economic offenders by central agencies for misappropriating public money.
“And why should Rahul Gandhi apologize? In fact, it is the BJP that should apologize to the public for securing votes with their shallow promises and now trying to throttle democracy by suspending Mr. Gandhi. If the BJP does not believe in democracy, it should make it clear to the public given that the law today is applicable only for the Opposition and not the BJP,” he said.
Mocking the BJP, senior Congress leader from Vidarbha Vijay Wadettiwar said that if the ruling party thought that Mr. Gandhi’s ‘insult’ of the fugitive exiles was an insult to the OBC community, then Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi were “very big leaders of OBCs” in view of the BJP.
“Given that the OBC community have been saddened as their leaders have fled the country, we ought to invite them back to India and felicitate them,” quipped Mr. Wadettiwar, remarking that while the BJP may have debarred Mr. Gandhi from the Lok Sabha, they could not remove him from the minds of the people.
Mr. Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on March 24, a day after a court in Gujarat’s Surat convicted him in a 2019 defamation case. The disqualification will prevent Mr. Gandhi, 52, a four-time MP, from contesting elections for eight years unless a higher court stays the conviction.