Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday (April 11) said with the Narendra Modi government bent on “misusing every power” and elections approaching in several key states, her party would take its message directly to the people and join hands with all like-minded parties to defend the Constitution.
In an Op-Ed in “The Hindu“, Sonia also accused Prime Minister Modi and his government of “systematically dismantling” the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, saying their actions demonstrate a “deep-rooted disdain” for democracy.
PM ignores rising tide of hatred and violence: Sonia
She also alleged that the prime minister “ignores” the rising tide of hatred and violence, egged on by BJP and RSS leaders, and has not once called for peace or harmony or acted to reign in the offenders, let alone bring them to justice.
“Religious festivals seem to have become occasions to intimidate and bully others – a far cry from when they were occasions for joy and celebration. Instead, there is intimidation and discrimination only on account of their religion, food, caste, gender, or language,” she said.
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Launching a scathing attack on Modi, she said his statements either ignore the most pressing issues of the day or are “platitudes and verbal gymnastics” to distract from these matters.
‘People of the country cannot and will not be silenced’
The Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson said despite the prime minister’s best efforts, the people of the country cannot and will not be silenced.
Underlining that the next few months would be a crucial test of India’s democracy, she said the country was at the crossroads, with the Modi government bent on “misusing every power” and elections approaching in several key states.
“The Congress party will make every effort to take its message directly to the people, as it did in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, and will join hands with all like-minded parties to defend the Constitution of India and its ideals,” Sonia Gandhi asserted.
She said the Congress’s battle was for safeguarding the voice of people and it understood its solemn duty as the principal opposition party. The former Congress chief added that her party was ready to work with all like-minded political parties to achieve this objective.
‘PM’s actions speak far louder than his words’
In the Op-Ed piece, she said the people of India had learnt that when it came to understanding the current situation, the prime minister’s actions spoke far louder than his words.
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“His statements – when he is not venting anger on the Opposition or blaming past leaders for today’s ills – either ignore the most pressing, vital issues of the day, or are platitudes and verbal gymnastics to gloss over or distract from these issues,” she alleged.
“Modi’s actions, on the other hand, leave little to the imagination on the BJP-led government’s true intentions,” she said.
‘Govt’s deep-rooted disdain for democracy’
“Over the past months, we have witnessed the prime minister and his government systematically dismantling all three pillars of India’s democracy – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – with their actions demonstrating a deep-rooted disdain for democracy and democratic accountability,” Sonia alleged.
Pointing to the recent goings-on in Parliament, she alleged that the last session saw a government-led strategy to disrupt parliamentary proceedings and prevent the Opposition from raising issues of grave concern before the country and its people, such as unemployment, inflation, and social divisions, and discussing the budget and the “Adani scam”, among other vital issues.
Faced with a determined Opposition, the government resorted to unprecedented measures – expunging speeches, preventing discussions, attacking members of Parliament, and finally, disqualifying a Congress MP at a “lightning speed”, she said, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha following his conviction by a court in Gujarat’s Surat in a criminal defamation case.
Also read: Budget a silent strike on poor by Modi govt: Sonia Gandhi
“As a result, the budget of ₹45 lakh crore of people’s money was passed without any debate,” Sonia said.
“The Narendra Modi government’s misuse of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate is well-known, with over 95 per cent of political cases filed only against the Opposition parties – and cases against those who join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) miraculously evaporating,” she alleged.
She also said the prime minister made grandiose statements about truth and justice even as allegations of financial fraud against his “chosen businessman” were ignored, Interpol withdrew a notice against fugitive Mehul Choksi, and the convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano were set free and went on to share a stage with BJP leaders.
Efforts to undermine judiciary’s credibility has reached ‘crisis point’: Sonia
She claimed that the systematic effort to undermine the credibility of the judiciary had reached a “crisis point”, with the Union law minister calling some retired judges “anti-national” and warning that “they will pay a price”.
“This language is deliberately chosen to misguide people, inflame their passions, and thereby, intimidate serving judges,” the Congress leader said.
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Alleging that the media’s independence had long been compromised by the political intimidation of the government coupled with the financial might of the BJP’s friends, she said evening debates on television news channels had emerged as slanging matches to shout down and silence those who question the Centre.
‘IT rules amended to remove legal protection for news outlets’
“Not satisfied with this, the government has armed itself with legal powers by amending the Information Technology rules to remove legal protections for any news which it dislikes under the label of fake news. The Supreme Court of India has recently made clear that criticism of the government is not a ground for penal action. Is the government listening?” she asked.
“No doubt, an army of lawyers from the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) stands ready to harass any platform which publishes criticism of the great leader,” she claimed.
Also read: Sonia’s speech reveals desperation and fails to grasp Cong’s limited appeal: BJP
Asserting that enforcing a silence cannot solve India’s problems, Sonia Gandhi said the prime minister was silent on legitimate questions on his government’s actions, which affect the lives of millions.
She said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not mention unemployment or inflation in her budget speech as if these problems did not exist.
Sonia also said on the live border issue with China, “we have the spectacle of the prime minister in denial about Chinese infiltration, the government blocking discussion in Parliament, while the external affairs minister adopts a defeatist attitude when it comes to China, which is further emboldened in its intransigence”.
(With inputs from agencies)