Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said the reason behind the move to get him disqualified from Parliament was his questioning of Narendra Modi’s relationship with businessman Gautam Adani, and asserted that the Prime Minister was “scared”.
The former Congress president declared he would keep questioning this “partnership” and that he was not afraid of threats, disqualification or prison.
“My job is to protect the democracy of this country, to save the institutions, to protect the voice of the people and to tell the truth about people like Adani. I will continue doing that no matter what the obstacles or pressure,” he said.
Speaking in public for the first time after his conviction in a defamation case and disqualification from the Lok Sabha, Rahul said: “I have been disqualified because the Prime Minister was scared of my next speech on Adani in Parliament. He is terrified.”
He added: “That’s why all this game of distraction and disqualification. But Modi ka Adani se kya rishta hai — I will keep asking. It’s a partnership and we won’t relent till we get the answer.” Rahul went on to question the source of an investment with the Adani group.
“Somebody has invested Rs 20,000 crore ($2.5 billion) in the Adani group through shell companies. That money doesn’t belong to Adani. Whose money is this?” he asked.
Rahul added: “If they think they can silence me through harassment and threats of jail, they are wrong. They don’t understand me yet. They are used to everybody being scared of them. That’s not my history.”
Rather than demoralise the Congress, Rahul’s disqualification seems to have energised it while convincing the other Opposition parties of the need for a collective response to what they see as a dictatorial move.
An ebullient and combative Rahul said he was excited about the new opportunities. He wondered why the government wasn’t worried about money coming through shell companies to a group that is a key player in the defence industry, or about the involvement of a controversial Chinese national.
“Why is the defence ministry not asking whose money is coming?” Rahul asked.
Rahul said all the BJP leaders knew of Modi’s relationship with Adani but were too scared to ask questions and just focused on their assigned task of diverting attention from the matter.
Responding to a question about the political fallout of his disqualification, he said: “Modi panicked and handed over a big weapon to the Opposition. Now a question has germinated in people’s mind: Why are the government and the BJP so desperate to protect Adani?”
He added: “People know that Adani is corrupt. But they want to know why the Prime Minister is doing so much to protect this corrupt businessman.
“BJP leaders have said that attacking Adani is attacking India. People are asking, is Adani the country and the country Adani? The BJP can protect Modi but why are they protecting Adani? Because aap hi Adani ho (Modi is Adani).”
By identifying Modi with Adani, Rahul appeared to be weaving a political narrative for future battles. He insisted that he was not worried about his membership of Parliament and refused to answer questions about legal issues.
He got flustered at the repeated questioning about the BJP’s accusation that he had defamed OBCs with his reported 2019 comment about “how all these thieves bear the same surname ‘Modi’”.
At one point, he asked a reporter not to distract from the main issue on the BJP’s behalf.
“The issue is not OBC or what I said in London. I didn’t ask for the intervention of foreign powers and the ministers are lying. The issue is from where the Rs 20,000 crore came. I will keep asking this question,” he said.
“It is not fashionable in politics to speak the truth. But I will continue speaking the truth. It is in my blood. This is my tapasya. This country has given me love and respect and I will continue fighting for the country.”
Rahul thanked the political parties that had demonstrated solidarity with him and hoped to work together with them in the future. That Rahul’s disqualification as MP has galvanised the Congress was visible on the ground as well.
Many senior party leaders along with chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel were at Rahul’s news conference, and the party headquarters was packed with workers who chanted slogans against Modi’s “dictatorship”.
The Congress plans daylong satyagrahas in all the states and district headquarters on Sunday, with all the senior leaders expected to participate. Party workers are expected to hold dharnas in front of Gandhi statues or at other prominent places from 10am to 5pm in protest against the Modi government’s “autocratic attitude”.