There is a "full-scale assault" on the democratic institutions of India and there are concerns in the European Union (EU) quarters over this attempt to “stifle” the country’s democratic structures, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Friday.
Interacting with reporters at a media briefing in Brussels, Gandhi, who is on a European tour starting with Belgium, addressed a broad range of topics including the Russia-Ukraine conflict to say that the Opposition agrees with the government’s current position on the issue.
On India hosting the G20 Summit, Gandhi said it was a “good thing” and pointed to the lack of an invitation for Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge to the event as reflective of a “type of thinking” from the government that “did not value the leader of 60 per cent of India’s population”.
“There is an increase in discrimination and in violence in India and there is a full-scale assault on the democratic institutions of our country, that everybody knows,” said Gandhi.
Asked about the reaction of the European parliamentarians to some of these issues, he replied: “They were very concerned and they felt that there is an attempt to stifle the democratic structures of India, for sure. I mean, they were very, very clear with us.” The BJP has previously dubbed Gandhi as the "present-day Mir Jafar of Indian polity" who went overseas seeking help from foreign forces to become a 'nawab' in India.
The ruling party had also said that Gandhi had insulted and defamed India with his comments about India overseas, saying, "People have not given this right to him." Gandhi said he had “fruitful” conversations with parliamentarians and members of the diaspora at the start of his European tour, which is part of a wider initiative to travel around the world with the Opposition’s vision and have an open exchange of ideas.
“We discussed with the parliamentarians across the board the relationship between India and Europe, the changing globe, transition into a new sort of energy paradigm, into a new mobility paradigm… we were giving them a sense of the type of challenges India's facing – economic challenges, other challenges. The general sort of attack on the democratic institutions,” he said.
“Internally in India, it's been commented on and globally it's been commented on. And, of course, minorities are under attack but so are many other communities – Dalit communities, tribal communities, lower caste communities are also under attack. There is an attempt to change the nature of our country,” he alleged.
On the issues that arose during his discussions with members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Gandhi said the violence in Manipur was among the topics raised from the perspective of “democratic rights, harmony and peace between people” and pointed out that when countries are “dealing with India these days, there are other considerations which are also important”.
“The G20 is an important conversation and it's a good thing that India is hosting it. Of course, there are issues in India that we raise (internally),” he said.
“India is a large country and by nature of being a large country, it will have relationships with many other countries. So that's a normal thing," Gandhi said.
"India has every right to have a relationship with whoever it wants… the Opposition, by and large, would agree with India's current position on the [Russia-Ukraine] conflict. We have a relationship with Russia and I don't think the Opposition would have a different view than what the government is currently proposing,” he said.
In response to a question on Kashmir, the Congress leader stressed that the region was an “integral part of India” and therefore nobody’s business to interfere.
“The general discussion we're having here, that democratic institutions, democratic structures need to be protected in India and the voice of the people needs to be defended and protected, that goes for every single part of India, including Kashmir,” he said.
On the climate crisis, the Opposition leader said his nearly 4,000-km-long Bharat Jodo Yatra had brought him up close with people who have a deep understanding of these complex issues and their voices must be included.
“That's where we have a fundamental difference with the BJP. We value the voice of the people, we value the voice of poor people, we value the voice of all stakeholders and we want to hold a conversation with stakeholders before we make decisions… and that's really the conflict that is taking place in India,” he said.
On India-China relations, Gandhi reiterated his position on the “coercive” approach of the Chinese including with their Belt and Road Initiative.
“What the Chinese have basically shown is that it is possible to produce effectively in a coercive environment, where you offer prosperity without political freedom. And the challenge for us is, can we provide an alternative vision where we do production under democratic conditions, with political and economic freedom,” he said.
From Brussels, Gandhi heads over to Paris and will then proceed to the Netherlands and Norway over the weekend. Besides meetings with parliamentarians in these countries, events organised by the Indian Overseas Congress and local diaspora organisations are on the agenda.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.