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‘Why Not For Me?’ Cong leaders question if nation-wide protest justified for ‘Ordinary MP’ Rahul

The Gandhis have been summoned by the ED for questioning. Some Congress leaders think a show of solidarity is justified for party president Sonia Gandhi, but not for Rahul.

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New Delhi: While a large section of the Congress party has supported their leader Rahul Gandhi’s call for a nationwide “satyagraha” on Monday, there are rumblings within the organisation as to why a party whose leaders get “harassed” by the Centre and the BJP’s agencies should step up for a leader who is “just an ordinary MP”, ThePrint has found.

Gandhi is to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) Monday after both him and his mother Sonia Gandhi were summoned by the agency in the National Herald Case. While Sonia Gandhi was unable to appear after testing positive for Covid-19 last week, Rahul, too, sought a different date from the ED on account of being out of the country.

The Delhi Police denied permission Sunday to the AICC for the satyagraha, but the call for such a protest has underlined the discontentment among the leaders of the Congress.

Speaking to ThePrint, some party leaders questioned why a show of solidarity must only happen when the Gandhis are summoned by the ED and not when other, even senior leaders, have had to face questioning or arrest by central agencies and other BJP-run institutions.

All Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs of the party, as well as members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) have been asked by the party to assemble at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters by 9.30 am on Monday from where they will commence the march, along with Rahul Gandhi, to the ED office in Delhi. While he is being questioned, the protestors — which will also include workers of the Congress’ frontal organisations like the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), National Students’s Union of India (NSUI), Seva Dal and Mahila Congress — will be camped outside the office.

State units of the party have also been asked to mobilise workers for protests that are planned in state capitals for the same duration. In states where the Congress is strong, like Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala, Rajasthan etc., micro protests have also been planned at the district and block levels.

On Sunday, senior Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh, Sachin Pilot, Vivek Tankha and Pawan Khera held press conferences across the country to talk about the case and the “satyagraha”.

It raised some eyebrows among party members.

“It would have been understandable if this was being done for Sonia Gandhi because she’s the party president and, in a way, represents all of the party. But why for her son? He claims that he’s just an ‘ordinary MP’,” said a Congress MP, on condition of anonymity, to ThePrint. The MP had plans to participate in the satyagraha.

Speaking to ThePrint, Congress spokesperson Alka Lamba said that the Gandhis deserved this show of solidarity because they’re the “only ones” standing against the BJP.

“No, he is not an ordinary MP. There are many MPs, but he is a Gandhi. He is a part of the same Nehru-Gandhi family that fought against the British and today they are the only ones standing alone and fighting against the BJP”, said Lamba.

“Do you see any of the Gandhis in big posts like governor or president or something like that? Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are elected by the people and all Gandhis have been elected by the people. They are a family that has been sacrificing for the country for 30 years. That is not ordinary”, she said.

Sources within the party, involved in the organizing of the protest, said that a protest of similar scale will also be planned when Sonia appears for her summons. Since most parliamentarians have made plans to leave Delhi after the protest on Monday, frontal organisations have been asked to be on standby to mobilise cadres in case Rahul is summoned on successive days.

“The protests will continue if Rahul is called on consecutive days. Else, right now, it’s a day-long plan. Politically, the party thinks it makes sense to do a show of strength now because such cases fall out of public and media memory very fast. After the first summon and questioning the issue is not covered even though the summons and legal procedures continue,” said a party functionary involved in organising the protest.

Also read: Dear Congresspersons of conscience, if you don’t remove Gandhi obstacle, you’re helping Modi

In-house rumblings

Most Congress leaders that ThePrint spoke to seemed to resonate similar sentiments. While they may or may not take part in the protest march, they say that such mobilisation can only be justified for the Congress president, especially when it has not been done for any other leader in the recent past, since the Narendra Modi government came to power.

“Why didn’t they do this for me?”, exclaimed another Congress leader who wished to not be named, while speaking to ThePrint. This particular leader is currently embroiled in a case which, he claims, is “politically motivated”, “just like the one against the Gandhis”.

Speaking to ThePrint, most party leaders said they did not disagree with a show of strength for Rahul in principle, but asked why the party couldn’t continuously hit the streets against the BJP and central agencies.

The Congress leader embroiled in a political case quoted above, said that the special position of the Gandhi family is a “reality” in the party, but a show of strength once in a while does not help the party in any way.

“For 99.99 per cent of the Congress, the Gandhis are the Congress. But one Hathras or one rally or one satyagraha won’t help. The party and its top leaders need to be on the ground all the time. The MLAs and MPs need to be in the constituencies all the time raising these issues. The campaign against the BJP’s agencies needs to be sustained because they are targeting the party at large and the institution of dissent. The Congress should stand for that and not just the Gandhis,” said the leader.

“I’ll be at the protest because if I don’t go then they’ll never do this for me. But will they ever do this for me [even if I go]?”, the leader asked.

An MP, who had planned to skip the protest, said that the Congress wasn’t even a “pro-forma opposition”.

“I think the party has stopped believing in anything. Even our spokespersons these days are mustering courage to speak out against the government only after the whole world has reacted. And the party has only itself to blame”, the MP said to ThePrint.

Also read: ED summons Sonia, Rahul Gandhi in ‘money laundering’ probe involving National Herald

A history of indifference 

In the past, the Congress party has seen many high-profile summons and, more importantly, arrests of its leaders by central agencies like the CBI and ED and also by BJP governments in various states.

Most recently, Congress MP and son of former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, Karti Chidambaram, was named in an FIR by the CBI in a case of alleged bribery and money laundering in order to allegedly facilitate Indian work visas for Chinese nationals. The father-son duo was raided by the CBI and Karti was summoned by the ED thereafter.

However, apart from tweets in support of senior Chidambaram, there was not much done by the party at large except for scattered protests by the IYC.

Previously, in 2019, both the Chidambarams were arrested by the CBI in the INX-media case.

At the time, P. Chidambaram spent 106 days in jail while Karti spent 22 days under arrest. No such show of strength by the party was organised then either.

The same year, now Karnataka Congress President D.K. Shivakumar was arrested by the ED in a case of alleged money laundering.

During the COVID lockdown in 2020, then Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu was also arrested by the BJP-led state government and kept in jail for up to a month. His arrest was over a clash with the state government on the issue of Lallu arranging buses for 1,000 UP natives so that they could return home during the lockdown.

In none of these instances did the Gandhis sit in protest, nor was a nation-wide protest organised. Apart from instances of arrests, Chidambaram, Shivakumar and many others in the party continue to appear for summons.

In most of these cases even the customary tweets from the Gandhis are missing, say sources.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: Is India’s opposition united? Conduct of Congress in London points in another direction


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