Rahul Gandhi on Indian democracy: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday (March 4) alleged that the structures of Indian democracy are under brutal attack and there are conversations ongoing within the Opposition to unite around an alternative vision for the country. The former Congress president also alleged that the recent tax survey action against the BBC was an example of the suppression of voice across the country, which is why he undertook the Bharat Jodo Yatra as an expression of voice against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) attempt to silence the country.
"The reason the yatra became necessary is because the structures of our democracy are under brutal attack," Gandhi told reporters at an India Insights event organised by the Indian Journalists’ Association (IJA) in London. "The media, the institutional frameworks, judiciary, Parliament is all under attack and we were finding it very difficult to put the voice of the people through the normal channels,” he said.
"The BBC has found out about it now, but it has been going on in India for the last nine years non-stop. Everybody knows that journalists are intimidated, they are attacked and threatened. The journalists who toe the line of the government are rewarded.
So, it's part of a pattern and I wouldn't expect anything different. If the BBC stops writing against the government, everything will go back to normal. All the cases will disappear,” he noted.
Gandhi expressed regret that democratic parts of the world, including the US and Europe, have failed to notice that a “large chunk of democracy has come undone”.
"The BJP wants India to be silent. They want it to be quiet… because they want to be able to take what is India's and give it to their close friends. That's the idea, to distract the population and then hand over India's wealth to three, four, five people,” he said.
BJP reaction on Rahul Gandhi's statement:
Gandhi's earlier comments at Cambridge University that Indian democracy is under attack and several politicians, including himself, are under surveillance, invited sharp reactions from the BJP that accused him of maligning the country's image on foreign soil after facing successive electoral setbacks.
"We can understand his hatred towards the Prime Minister, but the conspiracy to malign the country on foreign soil with the help of foreign friends raises questions on the agenda of the Congress," Anurag Thakur, the Information and Broadcasting minister, told reporters in Delhi on Friday (March 3). Thakur said Gandhi was aware of the electoral rout the Congress was facing in the assembly elections and had resorted to levelling allegations from foreign soil.
"Once again, the Congress lost in the elections but their bankruptcy was evident when they lost no opportunity to malign India from foreign soil," Thakur said. Asked about the Congress and Opposition plans for the next general election, Gandhi said the battle at the polls is not just between political parties but also against institutions as there is "no level playing field" in Indian politics.
"There are conversations going on between the Opposition parties, I am aware of many of them. The basic idea that the RSS and the BJP need to be fought and defeated is deeply entrenched in the minds of the Opposition. There’s no question about that,” he said.
"There are tactical issues that require discussions…but it’s important to understand that the Opposition in India is no longer fighting a political party. We’re fighting the institutional structure of India now; the BJP and RSS which have captured almost all India’s institutions. So, the idea of a level playing field doesn’t exist because the institutions aren’t neutral,” he said.
Gandhi is in London as part of a week-long tour for a lecture as visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge and is scheduled to interact with the Indian diaspora over the weekend.
(With PTI inputs)
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