Rahul Gandhi’s silence on sedition chargesheet betrays his disquiet about being cornered by the ruling BJP on the issue of nationalism.
New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had once given a spirited speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in solidarity with Kanhaiya Kumar, the former president of the university’s students’ union following his arrest, has been conspicuously silent about the sedition chargesheet filed against Kumar earlier this week.
Gandhi’s silence, along with that of leaders from several other opposition parties, could reflect their disquiet about being cornered by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the issue of nationalism.
On Monday, Delhi Police filed a chargesheet against Kumar and nine others in a 2016 sedition case for allegedly shouting “anti-national” slogans at an event in JNU.
The Congress president’s cautious approach to the chargesheet is in stark contrast to his reaction to Kumar’s arrest in February 2016, when he visited the campus and also addressed the students.
That visit, however, put the Congress in a quandary, with the BJP using it to create a narrative about it being an “anti-national” party that openly supports those who have publicly spoken out against the country.
Gandhi wasn’t the only opposition leader to go to JNU then — senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Ajay Maken besides opposition leaders such as the Janata Dal’s K.C. Tyagi, and the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja had also visited the campus. Others like Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also backed Kumar.
With Lok Sabha polls barely months away, the opposition seems to be in no mood to give fresh fodder to the BJP against it, especially on issues that tend to be emotive and politically delicate.
Some back students
Despite this, however, some politicians have criticised the move.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti compared the sedition chargesheet to Afzal Guru’s hanging.
“Just like the Congress hanged Afzal Guru ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections hoping for political gains, the BJP is repeating the same ahead of the 2019 general elections,” Mufti said.
Congress leaders and former union ministers P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal have taken to their personal Twitter handles to express their displeasure.
“The charge of sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar and others is absurd. If it takes three years and 1,200 pages to make out a charge of sedition (based on a public speech), that alone exposes the motive of the government,” Chidambaram said in a series of tweets.
“Real sedition is when those in power manipulate institutions, misuse the law, breach peace and security by inciting violence,” Sibal tweeted.
Meanwhile, BJP ally Shiv Sena — with whom it has a troubled equation — has taken a dig at the saffron outfit, saying it can’t use Kumar’s case for political mileage.
“The BJP committed the biggest sin of aligning with Mehbooba Mufti, who considers Afzal Guru a freedom fighter and a martyr,” the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana. “Now the BJP, for its own benefit, should not try and take political mileage out of the sedition case filed against Kanhaiya.”