Sonia Gandhi sharpens attack on BJP over WhatsApp hack, electoral bonds
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday lashed out at the government for its attempt to “soft-pedal” revelations that WhatsApp accounts of a number of individuals critical of the ruling establishment have been under surveillance through spying software PEGASUS.
“In the last few weeks, we witnessed another sordid and yet-unexplained scandal. The government sought to soft-pedal the revelations. This was all the more shocking since access to such software acquired from Israel is admittedly restricted only to government defence agencies,” Gandhi said, addressing a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) in the Parliament House complex.
“What was the government’s role in violating the fundamental rights of the citizens concerned? But as always, it remains silent,” Gandhi said.
The Congress president also hit out at the government over the issue of electoral bonds. “Through the RTI, the true story of the electoral bonds has been brought to light. It turns out to be another clandestine operation, done in haste and against the considered advice of the Reserve Bank of India,” she alleged.
“There are several infirmities in this scheme which seems to have been pushed through by the Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] only to benefit the ruling party and protect its financiers – while removing wholesale any checks and balances in this sensitive matter of political funding,” Gandhi said.
The Congress chief also spoke about the state of Indian economy, saying the government is clueless on how to manage the grave problems facing the country and “busy fudging” statistics.
“The economic crisis is deepening by the day. Growth is declining, unemployment is growing, and investment is not happening. There is worsening distress among farmers, traders and small and medium businesses. Consumption, especially in rural areas, is falling. Exports are declining. And prices of essential food commodities are rising, causing hardship to households,” she said.
Gandhi said the Congress party spoke out against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement only to protect the interests of farmers, fishermen, small and medium enterprises and the manufacturing industry.
“Our voice played a major role in the Prime Minister’s sudden and hypocritical discovery of Gandhiji’s talisman in Bangkok,” she added.
On the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Gandhi said democracy was “subverted” when Article 370 was abrogated three months ago under the “blatantly false promise” of a new beginning in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
“But the ground realities are completely different from the fictitious images conjured up by the Modi-Shah government. The agony, anguish and humiliation of the people continue. Former chief ministers, who in the past were political allies of the BJP, legislators, political workers, ordinary people, who believed in the idea of India, who abided by the Constitution of India, have been under house arrest for months,” she said.
The Congress chief alleged that even children were not are spared in the crackdown. Gandhi also criticized the government to allow European parliamentarians to visit the valley.
“When a delegation of political party leaders led by Rahul [Gandhi] flew to Srinagar, they were not allowed to enter the city, leave alone meet the people. Instead, to add insult to injury, the government preferred to shamefully organize clean chits from a clutch of European parliamentarians brought along by a dubious NGO,” she said.
Gandhi further said the election results in Haryana and Maharashtra proved those predicting doom were hopelessly wrong. “I want to congratulate our colleagues in these states who put up a very creditable performance. The results certainly punctured the BJP’s self importance and boosted our party’s morale,” she added.
She said the BJP will use every method, including intimidation, hoping to scare the Congress party into submission. “But, we will not buckle under pressure. We will fight every battle with grit and determination.”
Gandhi also appealed to party workers to participate in the December 14 rally in Delhi organised to highlight the “colossal failures” of the government on the economic front.