The trigger for Rahul Gandhi’s eviction from Parliament may be a court order but the Congress is clear that this is a political, not legal, issue and is about the removal of the biggest thorn in Narendra Modi’s flesh. Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh described Rahul’s disqualification as the climax of “politics of witch hunt and harassment.”
“Rahulji had to pay the price for three things: 1. Constantly raising his voice against Modi’s wrong policies 2. Taking out the Bharat Jodo Yatra 3. Exposing the Modi-Adani relationship. Rahulji didn’t only question the Prime Minister’s ‘neeyat’ and ‘neeti’, he told the world how Modi used state power to build Adani’s businesses,” Ramesh said.
The sentiment in the party can be summed up through one sentence written by American historian Timothy Snyder: “Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you.” An election speech given in 2019 turned out to be the hook to hang Rahul Gandhi on. Congress leaders asserted that Rahul’s politics wasn’t dependent upon his Lok Sabha membership and he had demonstrated this during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which attracted millions in every state it passed through. But what has caused concern is the government’s brazen attitude, as manifest in the false propaganda about Rahul’s speeches in London being “anti-national”.
The party sees a pattern: he was embroiled in the National Herald case, subjected to 51-hour grilling by the Enforcement Directorate, and defamation cases were filed against him in different states on different issues. The larger design to make Rahul’s patriotism suspect was revealed in the last fortnight as senior ministers, including Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal and Kiren Rijiju, and a battery of spokespersons described his observations in London as defaming India and shut down Parliament to demand an apology from him. Rahul had not said anything in London that he had not repeatedly said in India. The charge that he invited Europe and the US to interfere in India’s internal affairs was fabricated.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and BJP chief J.P. Nadda lent their weight to the campaign to paint Rahul as “anti-national”. Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi responded on Friday: “Modiji, your sycophants called the son of a martyr a traitor, a Mir Jafar. One of your chief ministers asked who is Rahul’s father. According to tradition, he took his father’s surname Gandhi and you asked why not Nehru’s surname. But you don’t get a two-year sentence by any judge.”
Priyanka continued: “Rahul raised questions on Adani loot like a true patriot. He asked questions about Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. Has your friend Gautam Adani become bigger than the country and her people? If his loot was questioned, you got rattled. You condemn my family for dynasty politics. But remember, this family has served India’s democracy with its blood. You are determined to destroy the same democracy. Our family always fought for the people of the country. There is something special in the blood that runs in our veins which prevents us from bowing to a coward, power-hungry autocrat like you. Whatever we do, we won’t surrender.”
Congress president Mallikarjin Kharge said the Modi government was scared of Rahul because he put out the uncomfortable truth in the public domain. He said the Congress would fight back with full might. “Modi wants to hide from the people the loot of thousands of crores by Adani, by Nirav Modi, by Mehul Choksi and we will not allow that. Modi speaks on everything but doesn’t utter a word on the loot by Adani. Our demand for JPC will continue,” he said.