Targetting the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused his government in Gujarat of “abetting and pushing the riots” of 2002.
The Congress government, in contrast, had tried to stop the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, he said, even as he admitted some Congressmen were involved in those riots.
The difference between 2002 and 1984, Rahul said, was that the Gujarat government was involved in the riots.
“The difference between the ’84 riots and the riots in Gujarat was that in 1984 the government was trying to stop the riots. I remember, I was a child then, I remember the government was doing everything it could to stop the riots,” Rahul said in an interview to Times Now, his first to a news channel.
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“In Gujarat the opposite was the case. The government in Gujarat was actually abetting and pushing the riots further. So there is a huge difference between the two things, saying that innocent people dying is absolutely wrong,” he said.
Asked to explain how the Gujarat government abetted and pushed the riots, he said the claim was not his. “It’s not me…it’s the large number of people who were there, large number of people who saw actively the government of Gujarat being involved in the riots.”
While he deflected questions on whether he should tender an apology for the anti-Sikh riots, Gandhi admitted that “some Congressmen probably were involved” in them. “There is a legal process through which they have gone through. Some Congressmen have been punished for it,” he said.
Gandhi, for most part of the 90-minute interview, repeated what he called the “fundamental political issue at hand” – changing the present political system to end the concentration of power in a few hands and opening up systems and processes to bring in youth and empowering them and women. He also referred frequently to the RTI and Lokpal laws enacted by the UPA government and used these arguments to deflect questions.
For instance, asked how Modi can be held responsible for the 2002 riots when the courts have given him a clean chit, he replied: “Our political party is fighting an ideological battle against the BJP and let me draw out the two pillars – our party believes that women should be empowered, democracy should go to every house, that RTI, and the MNREGA paradigm should be further expanded. The BJP believes power should be extremely concentrated in this country, few people should run this country and the large mass of this country should have no voice.”
Rahul also said he was in favour of bringing political parties under the RTI if there was unanimity among parties. But expanding the ambit of RTI only to include parties could create an imbalance, he said.
“If you only put RTI into one pillar and you don’t have RTI in, for example, the judiciary and the press and in other areas then you might create an imbalance. Am I for opening up? Am I for bringing RTI into as many places possible? Absolutely. Am I for creating an imbalance and weakening the legislative structures of this country. No I am not,” he said.
Gandhi reiterated that the Congress could learn some things from the Aam Aadmi Party and defended its decision to support its government in Delhi.
“We thought we would assist them, because our party felt we should give them a chance to prove themselves and one can see what they are doing and one can see exactly how much they have proved themselves.”