The BJP’s Varun Gandhi has declined an invitation to participate in a debate organised by the Oxford University on whether India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “is on the right path”. “I believe the chosen topic is not one that offers much scope for debate or dispute,” Varun Gandhi has written to the university in a staunch negative that comes amid vehement BJP attacks on his cousin Rahul Gandhi over his comments on Indian democracy at the Cambridge university.
“I am pleased to extend an invitation for Mr Gandhi to speak in an upcoming debate of ours. The motion is This House Believes Modi’s India Is On The Right Path,” read the invite from Oxford, Varun Gandhi’s alma mater.
“Against the backdrop of ever-strong popularity among voters, it is imperative to discuss whether the BJP’s direction under Modi has been more polarising than unifying. The question then becomes: what (or who) is the right path for India as it forges ahead into the future?” it added.
In his response, Varun Gandhi said the country has been “on the right path for development and inclusiveness” which has been “laid out” by “governments of varied political affiliations over the past 7 decades since Independence”.
As an elected representative, he said it was his job to study and evaluate policy initiatives and offer feedback “within Parliament and through other fora”.
“However, such comment must be offered within India to Indian policymakers. I see no merit or integrity in vocalising internal challenges in an international forum,” he added.
Over the last weeks, key ministers of the Narendra Modi government have ripped into Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. Law minister Kiren Rijiju alleged that the Congress leader was speaking the language of “anti-India forces” and a “gang” which had conspired to defame India.
The BJP attack on Mr Gandhi has been one of the reasons of the huge logjam in parliament in the second half of the budget session. The party demands that Mr Gandhi apologise for what they call his maligning of the Indian democracy.
The Congress has ruled out an apology, pointing out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had often attacked the Congress on his trips abroad.
Denying any wrongdoing, Rahul Gandhi told the media today that he “hoped” that he would be allowed respond to the BJP’s allegations in parliament. “But I don’t think they will let me speak,” the Congress leader told reporters.
“If the Indian democracy was functioning, I would be able to say my piece in parliament. What you are seeing is a test of the Indian democracy. Whether an MP is going to be given the same space as those four ministers were given when they raised allegations against me,” he had added.
In the lecture at the Cambridge University, Mr Gandhi had said the Indian democracy is under pressure and opposition voices are being stifled. “Everybody knows and it’s been in the news a lot that Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. I am an Opposition leader in India, we are navigating that (Opposition) space. The institutional framework which is required for democracy is Parliament, free press, and the judiciary, just the idea of mobilisation, and moving around all are getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy,” he had said.