The face-off between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi reached a fever pitch, with the latter accusing the Indian Prime Minister of shredding the very fabric of India’s democracy.
In an incensed speech delivered at Cambridge University, the full video of which was uploaded on Friday, Gandhi said: “I am not bothered about the two, three good things that he is doing if he is blowing my country into smithereens and that’s what he is doing.”
Gandhi addressed a lecture on the topic ‘Learning to Listen in the 21st Century’.
He believed India’s Prime Minister was imposing ideas on the country that it could not absorb. He asked if there was even one policy implemented by the BJP government that did India good.
With a candour typical of him, Gandhi made an acerbic reference to the Israeli spyware Pegasus used to snoop on him and other politicians. He added that he had been warned by intelligence officers to be careful about what he was communicating on the phone since his calls were recorded.
He said, “This is a constant pressure that we feel. I’ve got a number of criminal liable cases registered against me for the things which, under no circumstances, be criminal cases. And that’s what we are trying to defend. As the Opposition, it is very difficult to communicate with people when you have this type of an assault on media and the democratic architecture.”
He said this intrusive surveillance framework through a hacking software was an assault on the media and the “democratic architecture”. “Indian democracy is a public good. It is by far the largest democracy — at least 50% of people who live in a democratic society live in India. So preserving and defending Indian democracy is more than just about India. It’s actually about defending the democratic structure on the planet,’ he added.
Gandhi also recollected episodes from his recently-concluded km Bharat Jodo Yatra. He mentioned that despite being warned by the security personnel of terrorist attacks, he continued the walk. According to a report, he narrated an encounter in Jammu & Kashmir when a stranger, pointing to a group of militants nearby, asked if Gandhi was truly keen to listen to the people of the valley.
“I looked at them and thought that I was in trouble…nothing happened, we just carried on…they did not have the power to do anything, even if they wanted to, because I came into that environment to listen, with no violence in me at all,” Gandhi said while showing pictures from the Congress-led yatra.
Meanwhile, Union minister Anurag Thakur hit back at Gandhi saying “the matter of Pegasus has occupied a deep corner in his (Gandhi’s) head and heart.” “Today, the kind of respect that Modiji has in the entire world and the recognition that India has gained under the leadership of Modiji … If no one, Rahul Gandhi should have at least listened to Italy’s Prime Minister and its leaders,” he added.
Citing the Supreme Court verdict on Pegasus, BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said even after the SC verdict, Gandhi continued to harp upon it. “The entitled dynast is a serial offender — his hatred for one person transcends into hatred for the country time and again…Ironically, his daadi imposed Emergency and he preaches about democracy! What more can one say!” Shehzad said.
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