Rahul Gandhi asks workers to help flood-hit Gujarat people, Congress says attack on him well-planned by BJP-RSS

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi faced protests in flood-hit Gujarat where protesters hurled a cement brick at his car.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2017 21:34 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Stone Pelting,Gujarat
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi interacts with the flood-affected people during his visit to Banaskantha district of Gujarat on Friday.(PTI)

The “murderous” attack on Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat was “well-planned and well-orchestrated” by BJP-RSS workers, the Congress alleged on Saturday, accusing the Centre and state government of failing to provide security to the party vice president.

The Congress said it has identified four people behind Friday’s attack on Gandhi’s car in flood-affected Dhanera town where he faced a hostile crowd that waved black flags and shouted slogans for Prime Minister Modi. A stone hurled from the crowd broke his car’s left rear window pane and slightly wounded a man from his security team.

The main opposition party linked the attack to this year’s November-December assembly elections in Gujarat, saying the state government was bound to provide security to Gandhi.

The party said it will raise the issue in both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

A meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) has also been called on August 8 to discuss the political situation in the country.

Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki shows the stone pelted at party vice president Rahul Gandhi's car during his visit to the flood-affected Dhanera village of Gujarat’s Banaskantha district on Friday. (PTI)

he attack is viewed as a serious security breach as Gandhi is guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG), an elite unit that protects eight dignitaries, including Prime Minister Modi.

“Being an SPG protectee, it is the duty of the Centre and state government to provide security to Gandhi. But they have completely failed in their responsibility,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

“The BJP-RSS is famous for such things since 1947, we have seen in the case of Mahatama Gandhi and others. Rahul Gandhi is going to travel to Gujarat quite frequently in the next few months. If this incident happens again, the people of this country will not tolerate it,” he said.

Out of power in Modi’s home state for 22 years, the Congress is struggling to regain lost grounds from the ruling BJP. Prior to the winter polls, the Congress has to pass a major challenge of retaining a Rajya Sabha seat that senior leader Ahmed Patel is contesting.

Asked about the BJP’s charge that Gandhi had refused a bulletproof vehicle, Azad said sometimes leaders are forced to use regular cars.

“It is impossible to open a window in a bulletproof vehicle. On many occasions, common people want to meet a leader ... don’t go into details such as whether it’s a bulletproof car or the leader is an SPG protectee. And, if any leader does not open the window, people think the person is arrogant. A sensitive leader will always open a window to meet the people,” he said.

Gandhi blamed Modi, the BJP and the RSS for the attack. “They believe in politics of violence … What to do,” he said.

When pointed out that the Prime Minister was yet to condemn the incident, Gandhi remarked: “How will those who carry out such attacks condemn these.”

Former finance minister P Chidambaram too sought to know why the BJP’s national leadership has not condemned the attack.

Party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the attackers had “tacit approval” of Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, who had tweeted that Gandhi’s visit was a “photo-op”.

Rupani and his deputy, Nitin Patel, had condemned the incident and promised an investigation.

Gujarat police arrested a BJP youth wing leader and probing the role of three more people. The Congress had named Jayesh Darji, the Banaskantha district president of the BJP’s youth wing, in the police complaint.

State Congress leaders, including former Gujarat unit president Arjun Modhwadia, began a stir demanding his arrest on Saturday. They called off the protest after police took Darji into custody.

The Gujarat government had countered the Congress’s charges of security breach, saying a bulletproof car was assigned to Gandhi in accordance with protocol but he took a party worker’s vehicle instead.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said the state government cannot wash off its hand by claiming that it had offered a car.

“They had a duty to provide a foolproof security. Where was police? What was the bandobast? Car is meaningless. There had to be complete arrangement. How were the people present there with stones and concrete missiles?” he said.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, said such attacks were not in the interest of the nation.

(With inputs from Hiral Dave in Ahmedabad)

First Published: Aug 05, 2017 12:08 IST