Rahul Gandhi attacked in Gujarat, says ‘won’t step back because of Modi slogans’
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was to address a public meeting in Lal Chowk but it had to be cancelled after he was heckled. Police lathi-charged the people to disperse them and Gandhi left the scene.Updated: Aug 05, 2017, 07:29 IST
A man from a hostile crowd attacked Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s car with a stone and broke a window on Friday during his visit to northern Gujarat’s flood-hit Banaskantha district.
Political barbs flew after the attack in Dhanera town. Gandhi said he won’t be cowed down by the heckling and stones thrown at him, while the ruling BJP responded by calling his tour a “photo-op”.
“We are not going to step back because of ‘Narendra Modi slogans’, black flags and stone pelting. We will do our best to help people,” the Congress leader tweeted.
The stone attack is a serious breach of security as Gandhi is guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG), an elite unit that protects eight dignitaries, including Prime Minister Modi.
Gandhi flew to Dhanera from flood-affected areas in Rajasthan and spoke to people at Manotra village and surrounding areas before proceeding to the town’s farm produce marketing yard, where he met farmers and traders.
Thereafter, he travelled to Lal Chowk in Dhanera on the way to the helipad around 2pm. He was to address people there, but the crowd waved black flags, shouted slogans for Prime Minister Modi and against him, and threw water pouches at his convoy.
A man then threw a big stone at his car and it shattered the left window pane of the rear seat. A security man from his team was slightly wounded.
“Gandhi was in the front seat,” the party’s media coordinator, Manoj Tyagi, told reporters.
The car was taken to a police station and Gandhi left for Thara village in a helicopter.
“When I tried to confront those holding black flags, they ran away,” Gandhi said.
“We are neither in power at the Centre nor in the state. But I and the party workers are here with you. Two-three black flags cannot bog us down.”
The Congress demanded to know how stones could be thrown when police were around.
“This is called an attack happening under protected environment,” said party leader Arjun Modhwadia, who was accompanying Gandhi.
For its part, the BJP questioned Gandhi’s decision to travel in a party worker’s car instead of the bulletproof assigned to him by the state government in accordance with protocol.
“We condemn the incident. There are ways to protest, but this is certainly not,” deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said. “Gandhi opted for the vehicle of one of the party workers…,” he added.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani too condemned the attack and ordered an investigation.
According to Banaskantha police superintendent Neeraj Badgujar, a man was detained for throwing stones at Gandhi’s car.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi alleged that “BJP goons” carried out the dastardly attack. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted: “BJP goons broke Congress VP’s car with heavy stones on his way to the helipad after meeting flood victims at Dhanera.”
The BJP was quick in its response. Party leader Sambit Patra said the attackers were not “goons” but people angry and tired of politicians trying to politicize natural calamities.
Chief minister Rupani, who is camping in the region since Sunday, said Gandhi and the Congress should be devoting time to relief work in flooded areas, instead of doing “another photo-op”.
“The perpetual tourist, Shri Rahul Gandhi came to Gujarat but the people of Gujarat are asking- where are our INC MLAs in this crucial time?” he tweeted.
In another tweet, he said: “Rahul Gandhi’s leadership style is working wonders in his party. Following him, Congress MLAs are also in vacation mode!”
The Congress accused the BJP of bribing and coercing the MLAs to defect before the election in which party president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, is contesting. The BJP has denied the charges.
His barbs are against 42 Congress MLAs staying in a resort outside Bengaluru, where they were shepherded away after six party lawmakers resigned ahead of a crucial Rajya Sabha election on August 8. Among those flow to the Karnataka capital, six are from Banaskantha.
Gandhi toured Banaskantha and Patan districts that are reeling under the worst floods in 70 years. Northern Gujarat is otherwise a drought-prone region.
The state government has declared a Rs1,500-crore package in addition to the Rs 500 crore interim relief announced by the Prime Minister, who surveyed the region before in a helicopter.
(with agency inputs)