New Delhi: Amid the ongoing row over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's remarks in London, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi has declined the Oxford Union's invite to speak at a debate on whether India is on the right path under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Turning down his alma mater's request, the Pilibhit MP said that he sees no merit or integrity in speaking about domestic challenges at an international forum and that such a step will be a "dishonourable act". The development coincides with a heated controversy over remarks made by his cousin, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in London, which the ruling party has called "demeaning" to Indian democracy—the more so because they were made on foreign soil.
The second leg of Parliament's budget session has been a washout so far, with the BJP demanding an apology from the Congress leader for his "grave insult" to Indian democracy.
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Oxford wanted Varun Gandhi to speak against the motion: Report
Reportedly, Varun Gandhi, who has been at times critical of the government's policies, took the decision to decline the invite as the noted debating society based at Oxford in England wanted him to speak against the motion that "This House Believes Modi's India Is On The Right Path".
The invitation for the debate, scheduled between April and June, was extended to the BJP lawmaker on behalf of the union's president Matthew Dick.
"I am pleased to extend an invitation for Mr Gandhi to speak in an upcoming debate of ours. The motion is This House Believes Modi's India Is On The Right Path," read the invite from Oxford, Varun Gandhi's alma mater.
"Against the backdrop of ever-strong popularity among voters, it is imperative to discuss whether the BJP's direction under Modi has been more polarising than unifying. The question then becomes: what (or who) is the right path for India as it forges ahead into the future?" it added.
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Raising domestic issue country would be 'dishonourable act': Varun Gandhi
Declining the invite, Varun said in his reply to the union that citizens like him regularly have the opportunity to discuss topics like this with ease in India, raising criticism of government policies in the public square and the august Parliament.
However, such criticism must be made within India to policy-makers and raising them outside the country would be inimical to its interest and a "dishonourable act", he said. Varun further said that politicians like him may have their differences on individual policies at the central and state levels, however, they are all together on the same path for India's rise.
(With inputs from PTI)