Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi mounted a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, saying the government must not learn the wrong lessons on intolerance from Pakistan and that the atmosphere in the country was such that any protest had come to mean sedition.
In his first attack on Modi in Parliament after the Bihar assembly election, Gandhi solely targeted the PM for allowing minister VK Singh and BJP MPs such as Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath to get away with hate speech.
When Gandhi spoke in the Lok Sabha, the PM, incidentally, was delivering a speech during Constitution-related discussions in the Upper House.
“Our greatest strength is tolerance. Pakistan’s greatest weakness is intolerance. Pakistan has failed due to intolerance. Let us not learn the wrong lesson from them,” Gandhi said, attacking the government for promoting intolerance.
The Congress vice-president highlighted recent agitations in Gujarat to accuse the BJP of treating protests as sedition and acts against national interest.
“Modi-ji made his reputation in Gujarat. But the Gujarat model has burst and led to the Patidar agitation. In response, the government has filed 20,000 cases,” he said and paused briefly to add, “Today in India, any protest means sedition,” in an indirect reference to the charges filed against Patidar leader Hardik Patel.
Upping the ante against Union minister VK Singh, Gandhi looked for him in the treasury benches. Both Modi and Singh were absent. Gandhi said, “Mr Singh was an army general who compared two Dalit children with dogs. And our PM allows that man to continue as a minister.”
Gandhi’s attack on Singh and the PM continued as he said, “Modi-ji gives lectures. He wants FDI in defence. But the PM, the man ultimately responsible for the two children’s protection, remains silent on such incidents.”
He then turned the heat on Sakshi Maharaj, saying, “The other day the PM spoke so much on Mahatma Gandhi. And that gentleman, Sakshi Maharaj, said Nathuram Godse is a patriot. The PM can’t see these contradictions.”
From the FTII students’ protests to the murders of rationalists, Gandhi mentioned several recent incidents to underline how the PM had maintained silence on those.
Gandhi, who had listened to the PM’s speech in the Lok Sabha during discussions on the Constitution last Friday, pointed out that the founding fathers of the nation were great because they heard the voice of the people and allowed the country to speak.