New Delhi: A combative Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said he would continue to defend democracy in the country even if he is disqualified from Parliament for life or jailed and claimed that a “panic-stricken” government has handed the Opposition a “big weapon” by disqualifying him.
Addressing his first press conference after his disqualification from the Lok Sabha, Gandhi claimed that the action against him was taken because Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “scared” of his next speech in Parliament on the Adani issue and alleged that the “whole game” was to distract people from the issue and the panic the government was feeling over the matter.
He said he would continue to ask questions on the Adani issue, adding the moot questions remain that who invested Rs 20,000 crore in Adani shell firms and what is the businessman’s relationship with the prime minister. He vowed he will keep raising these questions.
Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after a court in Gujarat’s Surat convicted him in a 2019 defamation case. The disqualification will bar Gandhi (52), a four-time MP, from contesting polls for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction.
Asserting that “democracy has finished in this country”, the former Congress chief claimed that he never sought foreign intervention in his remarks made in the UK and accused Union ministers of “lying” against him in Parliament to which he said he wanted to respond but was not allowed.
He also said that the BJP was trying to divert the issue by alleging that he had insulted OBCs and he would continue to ask what is Modi’s relationship with businessman Gautam Adani.
“I am here defending the democratic voice of the Indian people, I will continue to do that. I am not scared of these threats, of these disqualifications, allegations, or prison sentences. I am not scared of them. These people don’t understand me yet, I am not scared of them,” he said, attacking the BJP.
“Disqualify me for life, put me inside the jail, I will keep going. I will not stop,” he said, noting that it makes no difference to him.
“I have been disqualified because the prime minister is scared of my next speech. I have seen it in his eyes. So he is terrified of the next speech that is going to come and does not want that speech to be in Parliament,” the former Congress chief alleged at the 30-minute press conference, flanked by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel and party general secretaries Jairam Ramesh and K C Venugopal.
He claimed that his attack on Adani was the reason for distraction through allegations and now disqualification.
Hitting back, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad rubbished the contention that Gandhi’s conviction in a defamation case and his subsequent disqualification were linked to the latter raising the Adani Group issue and his conviction has come in defamation came for his defamatory remarks made in 2019.
Prasad alleged that Congress did not press its battery of lawyers in service to immediately obtain a stay on Gandhi’s conviction by a Gujarat court with a view to “encashing” the issue in the upcoming assembly polls in Karnataka. The former union minister also charged Gandhi with insulting OBCs, “an issue that will be taken up in all earnestness by the BJP across the country”.
Gandhi, when asked if he was worried, quipped: “Do I look worried? I am excited, I am happy that they have given me the best gift that they could give me.”
He said when somebody is guilty of something, they want to distract everybody’s attention. “If you catch a thief, the first thing he says is ‘I didn’t do it’, the second thing he says is ‘look there, look there…’ That is what the BJP is doing.”
Asking where the money into Adani group has come from as Adani does not generate this type of money and that money has come from someone,” he said all this drama – OBC, disqualification, anti-national, is being orchestrated to distract from the panic that prime minister is feeling that his relationship with Adani is going to be exposed.
“That relationship is going to be exposed. Nobody is going to stop that. It is going to happen because the opposition is going to find that answer,” he said.
Asked if he was hopeful that his membership would be restored, Gandhi said, “I am not interested in hope. (Whether) Whether I get my membership back or not, I will do my job. Even if they permanently disqualify me I will do my job, if they reinstate me, I will do my job. It does not matter to me whether I am in Parliament or outside it. I have to do my ‘tapasya’ and I will keep doing it,” he said.
The Congress leader also thanked Opposition parties for extending support to him and asserted that going forward, all of them will work together.
Asked about the consequences of his disqualification, Gandhi said the Opposition will benefit the most from this “panic reaction of Prime Minister Modi”.
“They got into panic mode that the truth will come out. They have handed over the biggest weapon to the Opposition because people have a question on their mind… and the question is why is the prime minister saving this corrupt person,” Gandhi alleged.
He said he will continue to fight for the truth in the country and to defend the democratic nature of this country.
“I will do whatever I have to do to defend the democratic nature of the country. What does that mean? It means defending the institutions of the country, defending the voice of the poor people of the country, it means telling the people of this country the truth about people like Mr Adani who are basically exploiting the relationship with the prime minister,” Gandhi said.
He alleged that for the BJP-led government, “country is Adani and Adani is country”.
Asked about the BJP’s charge that his 2019 remarks that were the center of the defamation case were an insult to OBCs, Gandhi said he has always talked about brotherhood and the issue was not about OBCs but about Adani and his ties to the government.
In response to another question, Gandhi said, “My name is not Savarkar, my name is Gandhi, Gandhi does not offer an apology to anyone.”
Asked about the defamation case in which he was convicted, Gandhi said it is a legal matter and he will not comment on it.
He also said attacks are being made on democracy in the country and examples of it keep manifesting from time to time.