Stepping up their attack on Rahul Gandhi for his “democracy under brutal attack” remark in the UK, BJP leaders, including Union ministers, on Thursday demanded an apology from the Congress leader insisting that he was “not above Parliament”.
They alleged that Mr Gandhi had insulted the country from foreign soil by asserting that the US and European nations were oblivious that a huge chunk of democratic model had come undone in India.
“India’s prestige has not been attacked in such a manner before. Political differences may be there but there cannot be a graver crime than to seek interference from foreign powers. Anger prevails across the country for the grave insult Rahul Gandhi has inflicted upon what even the world acknowledges as the mother of democracy,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters here.
Congress leaders have ruled out an apology by Mr Gandhi, who met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and sought permission to respond in Parliament to the allegations levelled against him.
Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Kiren Rijiju, Anurag Thakur, Giriraj Singh and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Gandhi of “lying” about India in London and expressed anger that the Congress leader had not shown any remorse for his actions.
“Welcome to Parliament. It has been a week-long wait. Rahul Gandhi has maligned India from foreign soil, has spread lies and insulted Parliament. He should come to the House and apologise,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Thakur said.
Law Minister Rijiju said Mr Gandhi was not above other Members of Parliament and should not treat the Indian Parliament as his personal fiefdom.
“Rahul Gandhi may have lived his 50+ years as an entitled dynast. Before 2014, he may have had a free pass to do and say what he wants without any accountability, including tearing ordinances. But that stops now. He has to be accountable for his lies,” Mr Chandrasekhar said.
The BJP leaders asked Gandhi to “first demonstrate” his regret as the Congress leader met Birla seeking permission to speak in the House amid an impasse in Parliament over his comments in the UK on the state of democracy in India.
Addressing a press conference, Mr Gandhi alleged that the whole “tamasha” around his remarks in Britain has been created by the government to divert attention from the Adani-Hinderburg row and asserted it is a “test of Indian democracy” as to whether he would be allowed to respond to the allegations by the BJP in Parliament.
BJP spokesperson Prasad slammed Mr Gandhi and said the Congress leader’s comments cannot become the “barometer” of success or failure of democracy.
Mr Gandhi has levelled “absolutely baseless and false allegations without any iota of truth,” Goyal said, adding that the former Congress president was behaving as if he has come after performing some “great act of patriotism” without showing any sign of remorse.
Mr Prasad also lashed out at Gandhi for seeing “harmony” in China at a time when many countries are expressing concerns at its steps and said he was a novice in foreign policy “Rahul Gandhi, please brush up your information about the foreign policy of India and India’s strategic security. You are a novice in this field,” the former law minister said.
Referring to the Congress leader’s press conference, he said Mr Gandhi has not expressed any regret about what he had said.
“If Congress doesn’t get votes, it’s because of its inability and misdeeds. It doesn’t give their party leaders the right to shout against India & disrespecting India. The BJP would like to ask Rahul Gandhi that for how long will he continue to mislead the country, country’s democracy and 140 crore people,” Mr Prasad said.
The Modi government, he said, has exposed “rank corruption” under the previous Congress-led UPA government.
During his visit to the UK, Mr Gandhi had said it was surprising that the so-called defenders of democracy, which are the US and European countries, seem to be oblivious that a huge chunk of democratic model has come undone.
“The opposition is fighting the battle and it is not an Indian battle alone, actually it is much more of a bigger battle, a battle for a huge part of democratic people,” he had said.
The BJP has accused Mr Gandhi of seeking intervention of foreign powers in India by portraying the state of democracy in the country in a poor light.
Mr Gandhi’s remarks have rocked Parliament, with Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha failing to transact any significant business on the first four days of the Budget session’s second half.
To a question if the session is headed for a washout if the Congress sticks to its guns on the issue, Joshi said, “I don’t think so.” The minister, however, insisted that other parties are also of the view that he should apologise.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)