Lashing out at the Gujarat government for the release of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case of the 2002 Gujarat riots, Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot Wednesday expressed concern that democracy was in danger in India under the BJP rule.
“This (Bilkis Bano) is not the only case. There are many such instances that took place in the country wherein the BJP has violated the Constitution. Our democracy is in danger under the BJP,” Gehlot, who is on a two-day Gujarat visit, said in Vadodara.
“The remission granted to the accused in the Bilkis Bano case is not a one-off instance. There is a mindset behind such decisions… What is the message behind releasing convicts of such a heinous crime on Independence Day? The country is headed in an unknown direction… The ED, IT and other agencies are running the country,” Gehlot, who was appointed as senior observer for Gujarat on July 12 by the party high command, said.
On Wednesday, Gehlot arrived in Vadodara on a private jet to meet party leaders of Central Gujarat after weeks of delay and cancellations. The Rajasthan CM who was scheduled to arrive in Surat Tuesday, however, could not land due to bad weather conditions. Gehlot’s Gujarat visit was also cancelled on July 20 and August 4 after he was appointed the senior observer. The first visit was cancelled after he was down with flu, while the second visit clashed with the party’s nationwide protests against the summoning of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate.
Meanwhile, Gehlot expressed confidence that the Congress will better its performance in the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat. “Congress is very strong in Gujarat… Some people spread rumours about the Congress. The BJP and RSS have done this all the time. You saw in 2017 the performance of the Congress. This time the Congress will better its performance and form the government. It will be the end of the 27-year-long (BJP) rule,” he said. Gehlot was appointed the general secretary incharge of Gujarat ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, in which the Congress secured its most impressive show in 25 years by winning 77 seats.
When asked about the turncoats in Congress, Gehlot said, “We welcome those who leave the party, who sell their conscience and leave.”
He also sought to downplay the entry of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) into the Gujarat poll arena and claimed the real battle will be fought between the Congress and the BJP. “We are not concerned about the AAP’s entry into Gujarat. Though they have come, the real battle will be between the Congress and the BJP. The Congress is very strong in Gujarat and we will give a tough fight this time. I will not be surprised if the Congress forms the next government.”
The current visit comes as the Rajasthan CM faces criticism from the BJP, various Dalit rights’ groups and a few leaders from within the Congress amid the death of a nine-year-old boy in Jalore district. On Tuesday, members of pro-Dalit rights’ group and the Students Federation of India (SFI) staged a protest against Gehlot and Rajasthan Police outside Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan at Paldi in Ahmedabad.
Gujarat Congress working president Jignesh Mevani said he would raise the issue with Gehlot. “I will be meeting Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot regarding the murder incident in Jalore. I will be presenting all demands of the victim family in front of him and also demand that all accused be tried in fast track court and I will not sit quiet till they are given strict punishment. The issue of self respect is above political mathematics (sic),” he tweeted.
(With inputs from PTI)