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'Save Democracy' rally: Sonia, Rahul released after courting arrest

Source: PTI
Last updated on: May 06, 2016 15:53 IST
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A combative Congress president also hit out at the Centre saying it should not try to frighten them and that they ‘would not allow democratic institutions to be weakened or destroyed’

IMAGE: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh break the police barricade to court arrest during the 'Save Democracy' march in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Shirish Shete/PTI Photo

A combative Sonia Gandhi on Friday attacked the Modi government for “murdering” democracy and unleashing a campaign of “baseless allegations” against the opposition, as top Congress leaders hit the streets and courted arrest near Parliament.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi were taken into custody along with Sonia Gandhi, who predicted that the government’s days were numbered the way it was functioning.

 “Do not try to frighten or defame us... life has taught me to struggle, we have faced a lot of challenges. They don’t know what we are made of,” she said addressing the party’s ‘Save Democracy’ rally at Jantar Mantar in the nation’s capital.

IMAGE: Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh participate in the 'Save Democracy' march from Jantar Mantar to Parliament. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Asserting that her party will play role of an “alert” opposition with “full vigour” both inside and outside Parliament, she asked party men to “unmask” the Modi government.

Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, party leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and others courted arrest at Parliament Street Police station after they were stopped from marching to Parliament. They were released after a short while.

“They should understand very well that when matters would become unbearable, people of India know how to teach them a lesson.... The way the Modi Government is playing a fraud on the mandate, it seems its days are numbered,” the Congress president said.

IMAGE: Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi, senior leaders A K Antony, Anand Sharma, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Ahmed Patel during the 'Save Democracy' rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo

The rally saw Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh also attacking the Modi dispensation over pulling down of Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The AgustaWestland issue appeared to be weighing heavily on her mind as Sonia targeted the Modi dispensation accusing it of starting “this game of levelling baseless allegations against leaders of opposition parties”.

“But, I would like tell them they should not commit the mistake of assuming that Congress is a weak force. Congress is never going to bow before injustice. We will play our role of an alert opposition with full vigour in coming days, (both) within Parliament and outside too and combat injustice,” she said.

A Congress supporter shouts slogans as others try to cross police barricades during the 'Save Democracy' march to parliament in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Sonia said that the way the Centre has toppled Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand through “money and muscle power has not only shaken the foundation of democracy, but has murdered it”.

She also asked the partymen to reach out to “each corner” of the country and “unmask” the Modi government through democratic means.

Declaring that the Congress will not allow the ruling party to “destroy” country’s democratic set up, she accused it of attempting to divide people on the basis of religion, region, language and eating habits.

She also alleged that minorities were living under fear and the Dalits, women and tribals were being given a raw deal by changes in laws pertaining to Panchayati Raj institutions.

IMAGE: Congress workers during the 'Save Democracy' rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo

Without naming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Congress chief also targeted the Sangh Parivar alleging that the National Democratic Alliance government was being remote controlled from Nagpur.

She said that the Congress would not allow democracy to be “destroyed, whatever might be the diabolic designs” of the government.

Sonia said that the Congress would not succumb despite attempts “to browbeat the opposition and malign it”.

Targeting Modi for his ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ campaign, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Congress is ‘soul of India’.

Singh said at a time when democratic institutions, universities and courts are under ‘tremendous assault’, it was the duty of the Congress to foil the ‘designs’ of those in power by working together with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

He also expressed apprehensions that the Centre was attempting to destabilise duly elected governments led by Congress in Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh.

“Congress is like Ganga, no matter how many false allegations are levelled, it will not divert from its path,” he added.

IMAGE: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh is greeted by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi as the party's president Sonia Gandhi looks on before the 'Save Democracy' march to parliament in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Altaf Hussain/Reuters

Underscoring that her party has been instrumental in creating democratic institution since independence, Sonia said that Congress would not shy away from making any sacrifices for the cause of democracy.

“They declare anyone anti-national. Those who don’t agree with them are targeted,” she said, adding that her party knows how to fight against ‘anti-national’ forces.

Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of levelling baseless allegations against leaders of opposition parties to divert public attention from its failure over the past two years, Sonia said it was ‘their old tactic of spreading rumours and character assassination by spreading lies’.

She also flagged the issue of price rise, saying that it has affected women and the poor the most.

“They have gained power by showing false dreams. And after gaining power, their hunger for power is only increasing. And that has led to toppling of Congress governments,” Sonia added.

She also alleged that fear was being created in the minds of minorities and society was being divided in the name of religion, language and regions, while injustice was being meted out to students.

IMAGE: Congress workers break police barricades during the 'Save Democracy' march on Friday. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Launching a scathing attack on Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Rahul said only two people’s writ runs in the country and those who stand against them are targeted with ‘false allegations’.

He said around 40 per cent of the country is facing a drought-like situation and ‘50 farmers were committing suicide everyday’, but the prime minister ‘has nothing to say over the issue’.

“Modiji promised ‘achche din’ and today, the country is reeling under drought. 40 per cent of the country is reeling under drought. Everyday, 50 farmers are committing suicide. Latur, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand are burning. And Modiji has nothing to say about it,” Rahul said in his brief speech.

Making light of ‘Make in India’ programme, he said that Modi had promised two crore jobs per year after coming to power, but actually a mere 1.3 lakh jobs were generated last year.

Senior Congress leaders and workers, led by Sonia, later marched towards Parliament Street, where they courted arrest at local police station. They were later released.

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