New Delhi Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday slammed the government over widening disparities between the rich and the poor in the country, saying that the current dispensation was destroying the idea of India by ruling a union of states as a “kingdom”.
Speaking in the debate on the President’s speech in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi flagged three challenges facing the country: growing inequality that the government needs to urgently bridge; the danger to India’s character as a union of states, people, cultures and languages due to the centralised nature of the current administration; and the risk of internal and external threats that may leave the country “isolated and surrounded”.
Gandhi said that while India’s strategic goal was always to keep Pakistan and China separated, this government “brought them together”, putting the country at risk. He also accused the Centre of having a “flawed vision” of the country.
“There are two visions: one is the union of states, languages and cultures. There is another vision of ruling by a stick by the Centre. You people have no idea of history,” he said. “This centralised vision of the king was removed by the Congress in 1947. Now the idea of king has come back and the instruments of conversations between our state and people are being attacked by one idea,” he added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked Gandhi after the speech with Union law minister Kiren Rijiju demanding an apology for the Congress leader’s comment on institutions such as the Election Commission and the judiciary. “We know that Rahul Gandhi does not believe in democracy and he has no regard for constitutional authorities,” he said.
Gandhi’s intervention in the Lower House focused on the current challenges, attacked the “confused ideology” of the BJP and its ideological fount, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and alleged that the ruling dispensation was playing with “the foundation of the country.”
He briefly touched upon the Pegasus spyware controversy and said it was a part of the larger plan to capture institutions. “The judiciary, the Election Commission, Pegasus, these are all instruments of destroying the voice of the union of states,” he said. Gandhi advised the government to “stop”. Last year, a global investigative consortium reported that Gandhi and other leaders, apart from journalists and activists, were potential targets of the powerful malware.
Gandhi dubbed the President’s speech as a “list of bureaucratic ideas” and even called BJP’s Kamlesh Paswan, who spoke before him, as a “brother” who was in the wrong party, invoking protests from the BJP.
“As a concerned citizen, I see the gap is widening between rich and poor India,” Gandhi said. Citing data on 30 million job losses in 2021 and high unemployment rates, Gandhi said that the United Progressive Alliance regime pulled out 2.7 million people from poverty but during the pandemic, 2.3 million slipped back into impoverishment.
The Wayanad MP argued that small industries and the unorganised sector needed support to generate jobs but alleged that the government “snatched” their money and “gave it to big businesses”.
“Ten people have more land than 40% of Indians,” he said.
“One India is for the extremely rich people – who have immense wealth, immense power. And then another India for the poor. The gap between these two Indias is widening,” he added.
Gandhi went on to say that the Constitution described India as a Union of states but the BJP’s vision of India was to “rule with a stick”.
“Union of states means that conversation must take place. It’s a partnership not a kingdom. No matter what fantasy you (BJP) have, you can never rule the people of India. Today, all institutions are under attack from an idea,” he said.
“My great grandfather was jailed for 15 years. My grandmother was shot 32 times. My father was blown to bits. So I know what I am talking about. You are fiddling with something very, very dangerous. I am advising you to stop,” he added.
Gandhi frequently referred to Tamil Nadu and other states and alleged that they didn’t have a voice anymore.
Criticising the foreign policy of the government, Gandhi alleged that the Centre committed the “crime” of bringing China and Pakistan together and made a “huge strategic mistake” in Jammu and Kashmir.
“China has a plan. The Chinese have a very clear vision of what they want to do. The single biggest strategic goal of India’s foreign policy has been to keep Pakistan and China separate. What you (Centre) have done is, you have brought them together. Do not be under any illusion, do not underestimate the force that is standing in front of you. You have brought Pakistan and China together. This is the single biggest crime that you could commit against the people of India, huge strategic mistake in Jammu and Kashmir,” said the Congress MP.
Congress leaders actively supported the leader but Speaker Om Birla had to correct Gandhi when he “allowed” Paswan UNCLEAR. Birla stopped him and said, “In this House only I can allow people to speak.” BJP leaders also objected when he said Union home minister Amit Shah should apologise.
The first two speakers of the debate, both BJP lawmakers from Uttar Pradesh, spoke about the work done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and panned the Samajwadi Party (SP). Harish Dwivedi, who initiated the debate, said earlier, opposition leaders were scared to go to temple not to lose votes. He slammed SP for not giving jobs, lack of security and predicted, “We will form the government in UP.”
Paswan, an MP from Uttar Pradesh, rejected Gandhi’s characterisation. “Rahul Gandhi told me I am in the wrong party… I want to tell him about his party’s policy, which is to divide our community and rule. Today Rahul Gandhiji takes my name because I am an MP. I became MP thrice because of my party,” he said.
Rijiju also criticised Gandhi. ”Not only as India’s law minister but also as an ordinary citizen, I condemn what Rahul Gandhi has said about India’s judiciary and Election Commission. These are vital institutions of our democracy. Rahul Gandhi should immediately apologise to the people, judiciary and EC,” he added.