At Congress’ day-long protest, Priyanka Gandhi says Narendra Modi is a coward
The party organised a sit-in demonstration in Delhi’s Raj Ghat to protest against Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a coward at the party’s day-long demonstration in Delhi to protest against Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
Rahul Gandhi, who was the MP from Wayanad, was disqualified on Friday, just a day after a Gujarat court convicted him to two years in jail in a defamation case for his remarks about the prime minister’s surname.
Under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a legislator sentenced to jail for two years or more stands to be disqualified from the date of conviction until six years after serving time.
Opposition leaders have alleged that the action against Gandhi was politically motivated, while legal experts speaking to Scroll have opined that the Congress leader’s comments did not defame all persons with the Modi surname.
On Sunday, hundreds of Congress members and top leaders of the party started a sit-in demonstration called “Sankalp Satyagraha” at Raj Ghat, the memorial in the national capital dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. They Congress members defied prohibitory orders imposed by the Delhi Police under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code that bans gathering of four or more persons.
Addressing the party members, Vadra said: “File a case on me, put me in jail too, but the truth is India’s prime minister is a coward. He is arrogant. This country has a very old tradition of teaching a lesson to arrogant leaders.”
She also accused Bharatiya Janata Party members and Modi of insulting her family members in Parliament.
“My family has nurtured the democracy of this country with their blood,” Vadra said. “Those who think they can threaten us by insulting us or use central agencies against us, are wrong. We are not going to be threatened. We will fight with more strength.”
The Congress has alleged that the action against Gandhi was a consequence of his demand for a parliamentary investigation to look into the allegations against the Adani Group.
A report by American firm Hindenburg Research in January alleged that the conglomerate improperly used offshore tax havens and manipulated stocks. The Adani Group has rejected the allegations and denied any wrongdoing.
Vadra said on Sunday that she cannot understand why a large-scale corruption allegation has not compelled the public to protest.
“Are they [public] not able to see what is happening?” she asked. “Are you not able to see that your entire wealth is being looted? It is being given to one person, it is being given to a handful of industrialists. Whose wealth is this? Is this Rahul Gandhi’s wealth? This is your wealth, the PSUs [Public Sector Undertakings] built for you are being sold to them, given to them one after the other.”
She added that public sector undertakings, small businesses and small traders are essential for job creation.
“No big Adani can give you jobs, they will only snatch away your jobs,” the politician said. “Then why are you not able to understand? You are paying Rs 1,000 for a gas cylinder and here all your wealth is being given away.”
She also questioned the timing of the Gujarat court’s verdict against Gandhi.
“The person who had filed the complaint against Rahul Gandhi in Surat had approached the court seeking a stay,” Vadra said. “He got a stay on his own case for a year. One week after Rahul Gandhi’s speech on Adani in Parliament, he approached the court to reopen the case. Within a month the judge gives a two-year sentence to Rahul.”
In a blistering attack in Parliament in February, Gandhi accused the prime minister of bending the rules to help the Adani Group and raised questions about his relationship with the conglomerate’s head Gautam Adani.
On Sunday, Vadra said that at a time when several undertrials are languishing in jails without a hearing, the court heard the case against Gandhi and even passed the order speedily.
In a similar vein, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge accused the BJP of targeting political opponents.
“Rahul Gandhi is fighting for the common people,” he said. “The statement [on Modi surname] was given by Rahul Gandhi in Karnataka but the case was transferred to Gujarat. BJP did not have the power to file the defamation case in Karnataka.”
The Congress chief said the BJP’s accusation that Gandhi insulted the Other Backward Classes by referring to thieves as having the surname Modi is baseless. The Rajya Sabha MP also asked why the ruling party is hurt if fugitives such as Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi are criticised.
“They talk of OBC now, is Lalit Modi OBC, is Nirav Modi OBC, is Mehul Choksi OBC?” Kharge asked. “They ran away with people’s money. You [BJP] punish the person who works to save the country and send those who loot the country abroad.”
At a press conference on Saturday, Gandhi had said that he had been disqualified from Parliament because Modi is scared of his next speech. “Even if they permanently disqualify me, I will keep doing my job,” he declared. “Disqualify me for life, jail me for life, I will continue going.”