BJP likes to believe it will be in power ‘eternally’, but that’s not the case: Rahul Gandhi
London: The BJP likes to believe that it will be in power in India “eternally” but that is not the case, and the Opposition can unite to undertake the “repair work” needed to protect India’s democratic institutions, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said.
Addressing an in-conversation session at the Chatham House think tank in London to round off his week-long UK tour on Monday evening, the Wayanad MP once again claimed that Israeli software Pegasus was planted on his phone as he accused the BJP of trying to silence dissent in the country.
“To put it in perspective, if you look at the time from independence to now, the Congress party has been in power for majority of the time,” said Gandhi.
“Before the BJP was in power for 10 years, we were in power for 10 years. The BJP likes to believe that they have come to power in India and they are going to be in power eternally, that’s not the case,” he said.
“We can see that the reliance on our institutions is reducing and that to me is very, very dangerous. Certainly there is repair work that needs to be done, on the idea of freedom, independent institutions, a whole bunch of repair work that needs to be done.”
The Opposition MP pointed to a set of changes taking place in India that had caught the Congress and UPA government off guard, such as a shift from rural to urban.
“We were focussing a lot on the rural space and we missed the ball in the beginning on the urban space, that’s a fact. Those things are there. But to say that the BJP is in power and the Congress gone, that’s actually a ridiculous idea,” said Gandhi.
The BJP on Tuesday lashed out at Gandhi for his criticism of the state of democracy in India and the RSS from London, claiming it is its clear conviction that he is completely in the grip of “Maoist thought process through his minions” and also “anarchist elements”.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, former Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad also expressed his party’s disapproval of Gandhi “misusing the forum of British parliament” to spread shameful lies and unfounded claims.
During his Chatham House discussion, Gandhi pointed out that besides just the Congress, the foreign media has also been highlighting that there is a “serious problem with Indian democracy”.
“It’s also the way the BJP responds. It’s not interested in a conversation. They have decided that they know what’s going on, nobody else in the country knows what’s going on and that’s it… My phone had Pegasus on it, that simply was not happening when we were in power. So there are things that are very obvious and apparent to everyone,” he said.
The BJP has also made light of Gandhi’s allegation that he was being snooped upon, saying that the Congress leader was “hallucinating” and makes such claims as he wants to create headlines wherever he goes.
Gandhi also took aim at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a “fundamentalist, fascist organisation” that has changed the nature of the democratic contest in India by capturing the country’s institutions.
Asked to explain the RSS to a foreign audience, he noted: “You can call it a secret society. It’s built along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood and the idea is to use the democratic contest to come to power and then subvert the democratic contest afterwards.
“It’s shocked me at how successful they’ve been at capturing the different institutions of our country: the press, judiciary, Parliament, Election Commission – all the institutions are under pressure, under threat and controlled in one way or another.”
On foreign policy, Gandhi drew a comparison between the Russia-Ukraine conflict and India-China relations and accused China of sitting on 2,000 square kilometres of Indian territory but “our Prime Minister says they are not there”.
“The basic principle applied in Ukraine by the Russians is that they do not accept the relationship the Ukrainians have with Europe and America, and have told Ukraine that if you do not change this relationship, we will challenge your territorial integrity. In my view, that is what is happening on the borders of my country,” claimed Gandhi, adding that China is similarly threatening India over its relations with the US.
“The basic idea behind the troops in Arunachal (Pradesh) and Ladakh is similar to what’s happened in Ukraine and I mentioned this to the foreign minister (S Jaishankar), he completely disagreed with me and he thinks it’s a ludicrous idea,” he said.
Asked if a rapprochement is possible, the Congress leader said that India is the “biggest game in town” in terms of production which makes it China’s biggest competitor.
“There’s going to be a little bit of tensions and hostility on the margins. But I think it’s very important the lines are clear. They are sitting on 2,000 sq km of our territory, that’s a fact,” he said.
Gandhi also said that Chinese people do not function in a democratic manner as the Indian society does.
“Our society is built in a democratic manner. The Chinese do not practice the same model and see it as their biggest challenger. We need to offer the world our own vision of ‘Productivity with Prosperity'” The Indian National Congress tweeted.
Among the questions from a diaspora and academic audience at the event, Gandhi was asked about dynastic politics as an impediment to Indian democracy, which he dismissed as a factor and blamed “structural” issues “way beyond dynastic politics” as a threat.
On India-Pakistan relations, the Opposition leader said he believes it is important to have good relations with all neighbouring countries but that depends on the actions of the Pakistanis.
“If the Pakistanis are promoting terrorism in India, that becomes very difficult. And, that does happen,” he said.
The discussion concluded Gandhi’s UK tour, which the party described as an “overwhelming” response to the message of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
“There was unanimous concern over the alarming decline of India’s democracy and institutions. Specifically, the raids on the BBC in India have touched a raw nerve in the UK and raised alarm,” said Praveen Chakravarty, Chairman – Data & Research, All India Congress Committee.