The recent Save Democracy March, an initiative of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, saw a lot of furore as both Congress President and Vice-President – along with ex-PM Manmohan Singh – were arrested during the event. The march, which took place on 6 May, saw arrested leaders being taken to the Parliament Street police station from where they were released after 20 minutes. As long as they were in police custody, approximately 2000 Congress workers tried to get through the police cordon, as well as the barricades that they had put up. The police had to resort to using canes in order to restore a sense of control to proceedings.
Agusta Westland case
One of the apparent objectives behind the march was to protest regarding the Agusta Westland scam and express its firm belief in BJP’s involvement in the same. During the march itself the Congress leadership severely criticized the union government for the way it was unable to deal with the plight of people facing drought in different parts of the country. The leaders also voiced their angst at what they felt were the BJP’s attempts at bringing an end to the Congress.
Sonia Gandhi’s opinions
Before the march, Sonia Gandhi pointed out to the frequent farmer suicides and how inactive the central administration has been about it. She also alleged that the Modi administration was only selling false dreams. She said that the main purpose of marching to the parliament was to convey a strong message to the people in power. Gandhi also stated that the attempts to subjugate the Congress should stop as they were never going to be fruitful.
The Congress President said that the BJP had flexed its financial muscle to upend the state governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which were led by the Congress. She warned the BJP of not making the mistake of taking Congress for granted and also said that her party will never permit the weakening or destruction of democratic institutions.
She accused BJP of killing democracy by disturbing structures that had been set up through proper democratic processes. The Congress President also professed that her party will keep on fighting the BJP and will never let them carry on with their merry ways.
These comments can be regarded significant in the context of the recent bribery allegations that have surfaced in the VVIP chopper deal case. She complained that BJP is harassing people who are not agreeing with them. Gandhi also trained her guns on RSS, the parent body of BJP, while referring to the party’s role in India’s Independence Movement.
What did Rahul Gandhi say?
Rahul Gandhi dwelt on the employment policy of BJP. He stated that back in 2014 after coming to power the party had pledged to employ two crore people. However, according to the Congress Vice-President, till date only 130,000 people had been given jobs. This criticism from Gandhi seems a little odd considering the fact that BJP still has three more years in which they may or may not fulfill their promises.
The opinion of Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh, who, in his 10-year term as the Prime Minister of India never really said much, was philosophical in his opinions. He quoted Sir Muhammad Iqbal – a famous Indian poet from the Pre-Independence era – and equated Congress to a river that will always keep flowing in its natural direction.
The issue of intolerance was also high on the checklist of the Congress even as they went on the march. They carried placards criticising issues such as communalism. In fact, before the meeting, Sonia Gandhi met Pranab Mukherjee. There, she submitted a memorandum on behalf of the Congress, where the President of India was asked to use his constitutional powers to bring an end to the intolerant atmosphere, violence, extreme behaviour, and polarization on communal basis. It must be noted over here that in April 2016, on three separate occasions, Mukherjee had spoken about the need to protect India’s culture of pluralism, multiplicity and tolerance.
Accusations and counter-accusations in Congress march in 2015
During the previous edition of the march in 2015, there had been a series of exchanges between both the BJP and the Congress. It started at an election rally in Bihar when Narendra Modi came down severely on the Congress for levelling charges of intolerance against him. He referred to the mass killing of Sikhs in 1984 in retaliation for the death of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards and implied that Congress had no business lecturing him about intolerance. Congress launched its own retort by talking about the 2002 Godhra Riots and how Modi is being similarly oblivious at that time around as well.