New Delhi: Dressed in black, the Congress leaders hit the streets on Friday to protest against price rise and unemployment, with a host of them, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, being detained by the police amid dramatic standoffs outside Parliament and the AICC headquarters here.
Addressing a press conference in the morning Mr Gandhi alleged that India is witnessing the “death of democracy” and that anybody who stands against the onset of dictatorship is “viciously attacked”.
He said, “What we are witnessing is the death of democracy. That’s what India is witnessing. What India has built brick by brick, starting almost a century ago, is basically being destroyed in front of your eyes. All of you know it; the whole of India knows it.”
Adding further Mr Gandhi said even Nazi leader Adolf Hitler used to win elections as he controlled all the institutions of Germany. He said, “Hitler had also won elections, he too used to win elections. How did he use to do it? He had control of all of Germany’s institutions. Give me the entire system, then I will show you how elections are won.”
Mr Gandhi alleged that the sole agenda of the current dispensation is to ensure that people’s issues like price rise, unemployment and violence in society must not be raised. He further claimed that there is no democracy in India and that there is a dictatorship of four people.
Taking a jibe at the Congress party over its leader’s democracy remarks, BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked, “Why do you blame democracy when people of India reject you with repeated regularity?”
Mr Prasad asked if Congress had democracy within the organisation. “Stop demeaning the institutions of India to safeguard your corruption and misdeeds. If people don’t listen to you, why are you blaming us… If people saw dictatorship, it was during the Emergency when people, including Opposition leaders and editors, were jailed, judges superseded and censorship imposed,” he said.
Accusing Mr Gandhi of “blaming” the Indian democracy and its institutions for the Congress’ repeated defeat in elections the party contested under him and the ongoing Enforcement Directorate probe against him in the National Herald case, the BJP slammed the Congress leader for “shameful and irresponsible” comments.
Earlier, the Congress leaders started their protest from the party headquarters. Leading the charge Ms Vadra scaled the police barricades put up on the road outside the party headquarters and squatted on the road. The police personnel asked her to move from there as Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was invoked in the entire area of New Delhi district except Jantar Mantar. The Congress general secretary was dragged and subsequently put in a vehicle forcibly by the police and taken away.
The dramatic visuals of former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat being lifted and taken away by cops forcibly from the Congress’s protest site on Friday played out in full media glare.
The Congress chief party chief Sonia Gandhi led the protest outside Gate Number 1 of Parliament. The protesting MPs of the Opposition party raised slogans against the government, demanding that the GST hike on essential items be withdrawn, with party chief Sonia Gandhi standing with the women MPs holding the banners.
The MPs also marched towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan, only to be stopped by the police personnel. Several MPs and party leaders were detained by the police and taken to the Kingsway Camp police station. Senior leaders, Mr Gandhi and Ms Vadra, were also detained at the station premises. The Gandhi siblings, along with other party leaders, were released in the evening after almost six hours of detention.
According to officials, the Delhi police detained more than 200 Congress protesters, including 50 MPs, from Lutyens’ Delhi on Friday.
The day-long drama took another twist with Union home minister Amit Shah accusing the Congress of appeasement politics. Mr Shah said that the Congress’s black clothes protest was actually against the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
“By holding the protest today and by wearing black clothes, (Congress) is sending a subtle message that they are protesting against the foundation laying ceremony for Ram Janmabhoomi and is taking forward their policy of appeasement,” he said.
Questioning the timing of the protest, Mr Shah said, “Today, the Enforcement Directorate has not summoned anybody or questioned anybody. No raids have happened. Still, the Congress suddenly planned this protest today. I don’t understand why the protest had to be held today… I admit that it was on this day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation for the Ram Janmabhoomi, providing a peaceful solution to a 550-year-old problem.”
The Congress hit back, saying the protests have hit home. The party’s general secretary in-charge of communications, Jairam Ramesh said, “Home minister has made a desperate attempt to divert, distract, polarise and give a malicious twist to today’s democratic protests of @INCIndia against price rise,unemployment & GST. It’s only a sick mind which can produce such bogus arguments. Clearly the protests have hit home!”