By Manoj C G
During his ongoing tour in the UK, Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly said Indian democracy is under threat and criticised the BJP-led government for “controlling all the institutions”. (Photo: Congress/ Twitter)
Rahul Gandhi has said that the “collapse of Indian democracy” will “play out on a global scale”, receiving sharp backlash on Tuesday from the BJP that accused the Congress leader of “seeking the intervention of Europe and the United States in India” and going against the consensus on opposition to foreign powers interfering in India’s internal affairs.
During a discussion at the Chatham House think tank in London on Monday, Gandhi said the challenges confronting Indian democracy were India’s internal problem and “we will deal with our problem” but added that the problem would play out globally. “Democracy in India is a global, public good. It impacts way further than our boundaries. If Indian democracy collapses, in my view, democracy on the planet suffers a very serious, possibly fatal blow. So, it is important for you too. It is not just important for us. We will deal with our problem, but you must be aware that this problem is going to play out on a global scale. It is not just going to play out in India and what you do about it is, of course, up to you. You must be aware of what is happening in India — the idea of a democratic model is being attacked and threatened.”
During his ongoing tour in the UK, Gandhi has repeatedly said Indian democracy is under threat and criticised the BJP-led government for “controlling all the institutions”. On Monday, he said, “We can see that the reliance on our institutions is reducing and that to me is very, very dangerous. Certainly, there is repair work that needs to be done, on the idea of freedom, independent institutions, a whole bunch of repair work that needs to be done.”
Gandhi likened the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the Muslim Brotherhood” — he spoke along similar lines during a conversation with a think tank in London in 2018 — and called the organisation a “fascist and fundamentalist outfit”.
“When I joined politics in 2004, the democratic contest in India used to be between political parties and I had never imagined that the nature of the contest would change completely. The reason it changed is because one organisation called the RSS, a fundamentalist, fascist organisation has basically captured pretty much all of India’s institutions,” he said.
Asked to describe the RSS, he said, “The RSS is a secret society. It is built along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood and the idea is to use the democratic contest to come to power and then subvert the democratic contest afterwards. It shocked me how successful they have been at capturing the different institutions of our country. The press, the judiciary, Parliament, the Election Commission and all the institutions are under pressure, and (are) controlled in one way or the other.”
Gandhi alleged that debates had stopped in India. “Some of the biggest decisions like demonetisation, the farmers’ Bills, where large numbers of farmers were out in the street, we were not allowed a conversation in Parliament. The GST we were not allowed. When Chinese troops entered our territory, we were not allowed. So, that stifling made us ask ourselves a fundamental question … How do we communicate with the people of India when the media is biased and when the institutions are captured? The answer we came up with within the Congress party was this walk (Bharat Jodo Yatra) across the country.”
At another event organised in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons by Labour Party MP Virendra Sharma, Gandhi came across a faulty microphone and quipped, “Our mikes are not out of order, they are functioning, but you still can’t switch them on. That’s happened to me a number of times while I am speaking.”
In response to a question at Chatham House, Gandhi said India was undergoing a transformation and indicated that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government perhaps was caught off guard by the shift from rural to urban. “We were focusing a lot on the rural space and we missed the ball at the beginning on the urban space. That is a fact,” he said.
He added that “it was a ridiculous” idea to claim that the Congress was “gone” now that the BJP is in power. “As far as the coercion and violence are concerned, it is not that the Congress is saying…you just got to travel in India and see…what is being done to the Dalit community, tribal community, to the minorities…There are articles all across in the foreign press all the time that there is a serious problem with Indian democracy,” he said.
Gandhi also drew a parallel between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Chinese transgressions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). “The basic principle that has been applied in Ukraine is that the Russians have told the Ukrainians that we do not accept the relationship you have with Europe and America. And if you do not change this relationship, we will change your territory. We will challenge your territorial integrity. In my view, that is what is happening on the borders of my country…China does not want us to have a relationship with the United States and it is threatening us by saying ‘if you continue to have this relationship with the United States we will take action’. That is why they have got troops in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. I mentioned this to the foreign minister. He completely disagrees with me and he thinks this is a ludicrous idea. It is fine…we have a different opinion,” he said.
On India-Pakistan relations, the Congress MP said he believes it is important to have good relations with all neighbouring countries but that depends on the actions of Pakistanis. “If the Pakistanis are promoting terrorism in India, that becomes very difficult. And, that does happen.”
BJP’s stinging response
The BJP hit out at Gandhi’s statements. Claiming that he was “in the grip of Maoist thought process through his minions” and “anarchist elements”, former Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference that Gandhi had “forgotten all parliamentary norms, political propriety and democratic shame by criticising Indians from abroad”.
“Rahul Gandhi has tried to embarrass the country by saying that Europe and America should interfere in the internal affairs of India. The people of India neither listen nor understand him. Supporting him is a distant thing. Therefore, Gandhi goes abroad and laments that India’s democracy is in danger. This is a matter of great shame. Rahul Gandhi has insulted everything, including India’s democracy, Parliament, people, political system, judicial system and strategic security,” said the former Union minister.
Prasad also took exception to Gandhi’s remarks on the RSS and said the organisation has been serving society and the nation. In an interview with Doordarshan, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur accused Gandhi of “defaming India” from foreign soil and asked him to attend RSS camps. “The RSS is a volunteer organisation that works in every field for national unity and integrity. The RSS has made major contributions to the nation. I would say Rahul Gandhi should also attend RSS camps, he will learn a lot.”
Courtesy: Indian Express
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