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Govt seeks to silence those who disagree with it: Rahul at Congress meet

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi presided over the crucial CWC meeting on Monday after party president Sonia Gandhi reported sick.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2016 13:41 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times
CWC,Sonia Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with former PM Manmohan Singh chairing a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday attacked the Modi government for being “obsessed with power” and silencing critics, saying the Indian democracy was passing through one of its “darkest hours” under the present dispensation.

Rahul was speaking at a meeting of the Congress working committee, the party’s highest decision-making body. He had to chair the meeting after party president Sonia Gandhi called in sick.

“They will exploit caste and religious fault lines. We must anticipate and neutralise such devious strategies,” he said, indicating the party was getting ready to take on the government when Parliament opens for the winter session on November 16.

Rahul’s remarks on silencing critics comes within days of the government asking three channels to go off air for a period varying from at a day to a week, for violating broadcast laws. Journalists, activists and opposition have said the one-day ban on NDTV India amounted to suppressing free speech.

“The Modi government is obsessed with power, it seeks to silence all those who disagree. Hiding behind the cloak of national security, civil society is being intimidated for asking questions. Television channels are being punished and asked to shut down,” said Gandhi.

NDTV, which challenged the punishment in the Supreme Court during the day, was docked to revealing sensitive details during its coverage of a militant attack on the Pathankot airbase in January.

“Asking questions is what discomforts this government the most, for they have no answers,” Rahul told senior Congress leaders at the meeting in which the CWC will discuss organisational polls, the deadline for which ends on December 31.

Read | Congress committee to meet today over party polls, key decisions likely

The CWC is also expected to extend Sonia’s tenure by another year. But it will be done in her absence. She skipped the meeting for “health reasons”, Congress sources said. News agency IANS quoted sources as saying that the 69-year-old leader complained of a bad throat.

Sonia already holds the record of being the Congress chief for 18 consecutive years after taking over from Sitaram Kesri in 1998. The upcoming assembly elections would also be discussed at the meeting.

Party sources ruled out internal polls at this moment in view of the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in early 2017.

Party leaders, however, insisted that extension of Sonia’s term to December 2017 wouldn’t necessarily mean that Rahul would have to wait another year to take over as the party chief.

The timing of the change would be decided by Sonia and Rahul, a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity. The CWC resolution on Sonia’s extension was a technical requirement that would have no bearing on Rahul’s elevation, he said.

First Published: Nov 07, 2016 12:10 IST