Cong will join hands with all like-minded parties to defend Constitution: Sonia
New Delhi: Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said with the Narendra Modi government bent on "misusing every power" and elections approaching in several key states, her party will take its message directly to people and join hands with all like-minded parties to defend the Constitution.
In an Op-Ed in "The Hindu", Gandhi 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.
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," Gandhi said.
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.
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 will be a crucial test of India's democracy, she said the country is 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," Gandhi asserted.
She said the Congress's battle is for safeguarding the voice of people and it understands its solemn duty as the principal opposition party.
The former Congress chief added that her party is ready to work with all like-minded political parties to achieve this objective.
In the Op-Ed piece, she said the people of India have learnt that when it comes to understanding the current situation, the prime minister's actions speak far louder than his words.
"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," Gandhi alleged.
Modi's actions, on the other hand, leave little to the imagination on the BJP-led government's true intentions, she said.
"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," Gandhi 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.
As a result, the budget of Rs 45 lakh crore of people's money was passed without any debate, Gandhi 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.
Gandhi also said the prime minister makes grandiose statements about truth and justice even as allegations of financial fraud against his "chosen businessman" are ignored, Interpol withdraws a notice against fugitive Mehul Choksi and the convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano are set free and go on to share a stage with BJP leaders.
She claimed that the systematic effort to undermine the credibility of the judiciary has 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.
Alleging that the media's independence has 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 have emerged as slanging matches to shout down and silence those who question the Centre.
"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.
Asserting that enforcing a silence cannot solve India's problems, Gandhi said the prime minister is 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 do not exist.
Gandhi 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".