CONGRESS VICE president Rahul Gandhi sparked a political storm Thursday by alleging at a gathering of Opposition leaders that the RSS was installing people of its ideology in institutions like the Army, the judiciary and the media.
Reacting sharply to the charge, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described Gandhi’s remarks as “ochchi baat (cheap talk)” and said that they were “demeaning” and “do not even deserve a reply”.
Prasad also said that it was Gandhi’s grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi who had spoken about a “committed judiciary” during the Emergency.
Addressing Opposition leaders from over a dozen parties, invited by JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to gather under the theme of “Saajha Virasat Bachao (Save Composite Culture)”, Gandhi said, “The RSS knows that its ideology cannot win elections in India. Hence, people of the RSS are installing their people one by one in every institution. Be it the Press, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, people of RSS ideology are being put in every institution.”
The Congress leader alleged that the ultimate aim of RSS was to eliminate the right to vote “because they know that as long as the one-person-one-vote system remains in the country, they will not be able to do this”.
“The day when they will be able to install people from RSS in the Army, in the bureaucracy, in the media, the county will be theirs. Then they will tell you, tell us that the country does not belong to you, it belongs to us,” he said.
Praising Yadav’s efforts to bring together all Opposition leaders on one platform, Gandhi said, “On the hand are those people who say the country belongs to them. On the other hand are those who say that they belong to the country. On the one hand are those persons who want to loot this country. On the other hand are those people who want to give something to the nation.”
Taking aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi claimed that the Government’s flagship Make in India programme had “totally failed” and that the country was swamped by Chinese products. “Modiji says we need Swachh Bharat (Clean India), we say we need Sach Bharat (Truthful India),” said Gandhi, while also referring to unemployment and farmers’ suicides.
Reacting to Gandhi’s comments, BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said, ”The most objectionable thing he said was that BJP is packing the judiciary and the media with its own people and will change the Constitution. But then, it is not unexpected from Rahul Gandhi. His grandmother had talked about a committed judiciary during the Emergency. Many a place, judges were superseded. The political training of Rahul Gandhi and the political heritage of Rajiv Gandhi has been very unclear as far the independence of the judiciary is concerned. I condemn this utterly irresponsible statement of Rahul Gandhi.”
The Law Minister also hit out at Sharad Yadav for sharing the dais with Congress leaders, pointing out that the (JDU) leader had fought against the party throughout his political life.
At the Opposition gathering, leaders took on the BJP, with Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad saying that “Sharad Yadav’s JD(U) was the real JD(U) while Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) was BJP United”.
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said India can face China and Pakistan but “unfortunately, the threat today is from inside not from outside. Someone within the country is hellbent on spoiling everything.”
Referring to Kashmir and Kashmiris, Abdullah said people are now trying to question their nationality. “Who are they to ask us about our nationality? We, Kashmiris, chose India over Pakistan during partition because India guarantees equality. And I say this with pride that I am an Indian Muslim.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the question today is not about an election but whether the basic democratic and pluralistic character of the nation will be saved or not. “An attempt is being made to change India into a sort of Hindu Pakistan. We have to change this and protect the composite culture,” he said.
CPI’s D Raja said the secular credentials of the country were at stake.
Dalit icon B R Amedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar asked why the Congress, the largest Opposition party, “does not take the initiative in calling such Opposition meetings?” He also called on Opposition parties to “begin the fight” from the assembly elections in Gujarat, where incidents such as the attacks of Dalits in Una happened.
Sharad Yadav said the NDA’s leaders should remember that they came to power with the vote of only 31 per cent of the population “while the representatives of 69 per cent people are here”.
Yadav, who had rebelled against his party leader Nitish Kumar’s decision to align with the NDA in Bihar, said that some people were apprehensive that he might accept a ministerial berth and join the NDA.
The Opposition meeting was attended by leaders from the Congress, NCP, SP, BSP, JD(S), JVM(P), RLD, INLD, Trinamool Congress and Yadav’s supporters in the JD(U).
Sources close to Yadav said he would not attend the national executive of the JD(U) in Patna on August 19 but hold a parallel meeting there during the same time. Yadav is also planning a nationwide tour to forge larger Opposition unity ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.