Government pressed for disqualification out of panic, says Rahul Gandhi

Describing his disqualification as a “weapon” handed to the Opposition by the government, Mr. Gandhi vowed to continue raising questions on the alleged relationship between the PM and industrialist Gautam Adani

Updated - March 25, 2023 10:13 pm IST

Published - March 25, 2023 01:26 pm IST - New Delhi

Rahul Gandhi during a press conference in Delhi on March 25, 2023.

Rahul Gandhi during a press conference in Delhi on March 25, 2023. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Labeling his disqualification from the Lok Sabha as a “panic reaction” of the government, which was afraid of his “next speech” on industrialist Gautam Adani in Parliament, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi called it the “best gift” the government could give him.

With Youth Congress cadres raising slogans on the lawns of the party’s headquarters at 24, Akbar Road in the capital, and facing a packed hall of media persons, Mr. Gandhi addressed a 30 minute-long press conference where he underlined the “close relationship” between Mr. Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alluding to a direct connection between the ruling party and the alleged fraudulent financial transactions in Mr. Adani’s shell companies.

Mr. Gandhi dismissed his “disqualification” as a non-event, insisting that he would continue his work of speaking the truth whether he is inside or outside Parliament.

‘PM is scared’

“Please understand why I have been disqualified... I have been disqualified because the Prime Minister is scared of my next speech on Adani, I have seen it in his eyes. He is terrified of the next speech and he doesn’t want my next speech to be in Parliament,” Mr. Gandhi said. That is why, he added, the BJP had first tried to “distract” by raising his alleged “anti-India” narrative in London, and then came the “disqualification”. Raising the rhetorical stakes, he declared that he would not be cowed by a “prison term”.

The “drama”, as he described it, began with his speech in Parliament delivered on February 7 as part ofthe Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address where the Wayanad MP had asked a set of questions to the government.

“I asked Prime Minister very specific set of questions. My question was, ‘₹20,000 crore or $3 billion that came into the shell companies owned by Mr. Adani. Mr Adani could not have generated this money, he is in infrastructure business. Where did this money come from, whose money is it?’,” he said. Mr. Gandhi claimed that the government was rattled by the evidence that he produced on the floor of the House about Mr. Modi’s relationship with Mr. Adani, including the photographs of them flying together in aircraft owned by the Adani group. His speech was expunged from the parliamentary record..

‘Distraction, then disqualification’

This was followed with the “distraction”, as he labelled it, of blaming him for making “anti-India” statements in London. “BJP Ministers lied about me in Parliament. They made statements to distract from the Adani issue. The whole game — disqualification and other statements — is to distract from the central question on ‘Whose money is it?’ They claim that I asked foreign forces to help India, most ridiculous statement. I have never made such a statement. You can look at all the conversations I had in United Kingdom, not one such statement was made. In fact, I said that it is India’s problem and India has to resolve it,” he added.

The Congress leader claimed that he was not allowed to counter the allegations made by the Ministers on the floor of the House, despite his repeated appeals to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla. Mr. Birla, he said, told him outright that he could not be allowed to speak.

‘Gandhi doesn’t apologise’

Flanked by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel at the press conference, Mr. Gandhi struck a defiant note. “I am here to defend the democratic voice of the Indian people, I will continue doing that. I am not scared of these threats, disqualifications or prison sentences... I will continue doing that. These people don’t understand me. They are used to everyone being scared of them, I am not scared of them. I will continue to ask the question,” he said.

When asked about the BJP’s demand that he apologise for both his comments made in London as well as for his 2019 comments on the Modi surname which have led to his conviction for defamation, he said, ““My name is not Savarkar, my name is Gandhi. Gandhi doesn’t apologise!”

‘Panic reaction’

To repeated questions on whether he would challenge his disqualification, Mr. Gandhi unequivocally stated that it did not matter to him. “Whether I get the membership or not, I will continue doing my work. Whether they permanently disqualify me, I will do my work, whether they reinstate me I will continue doing work. It doesn’t make a difference to me whether I am inside or outside of the Parliament,” he said.

The Congress leader declared that the public were also curious now about Mr. Adani’s equation with the ruling party. “Modi ji is in panic, he is scared and worried. Now the public too is questioning. They know that Mr. Adani is a corrupt person and they are wondering why is the Indian Prime Minister and all his cabinet colleagues trying to save him,” he stated.

Responding to queries on the implications of his disqualification for Opposition dynamics, Mr. Gandhi thanked every Opposition party that came out in support of him and said that everyone would work together. Claiming that the government’s “panic reaction” would benefit the Opposition the most, he declared, “They have handed us the weapon.”

‘Best gift’

When asked if he was worried about the long-term impact of the conviction, which could bar him from contesting elections for the next six years, he said, “Do I look worried? I am excited! These people have given the best gift they could give me.” The Opposition, he said, would continue to press for answers and would expose the Modi-Adani collusion.

He concluded the press conference with a question, “I am not raising question on Narendra Modi. I am asking questions on Adani. Why is the BJP protecting Adani? You are protecting Adani because you are Adani,” he alleged.

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