Why Congress protests against Rahul Gandhi’s questioning by ED have been dubbed ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’


Thirty hours over three days and there’s still more to come for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

After his gruelling questioning for three days — which began on Monday — the Congress MP has finally received a breather after Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials acceded to his request to defer his questioning in the National Herald money-laundering case from 17 June (today) to 20 June (Monday) owing to his mother’s hospitalisation.

The MP from Wayanad had written to ED, asking them to exempt him from questioning on Friday as he wanted to remain with his mother — Sonia Gandhi, who has been admitted to hospital owing to COVID-19 issues.

The ED is seeking answers about Rahul’s “personal role” in taking decisions with regard to National Herald and its owner Young Indian. On Monday, he was questioned for nearly 10 hours, following which he went through another round of enquiry on Tuesday for over 11 hours. On Wednesday, the questions lasted for almost eight hours.

The three days of questioning by the ED has been accompanied by massive protests carried out by Congress workers and leaders, who allege that the agency’s action is nothing but vendetta politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre.

Also read: National Herald case: Rahul Gandhi, his mother and the Al Capone moment

Protests galore

Since Monday when Rahul was first called for questioning, Congress workers and leaders have sat on dharna to protest the move, alleging the Centre’s misuse of the central agency.

On Wednesday, the protests turned highly dramatic and violent when images emerged of workers and leaders being whisked away and detained by a strong posse of police, supported by paramilitary personnel in the National Capital.

Congress party workers burnt tyres outside the ED office and the party accused Delhi Police of entering their party headquarters forcefully and assaulting workers.

“In an act of absolute goondaism perpetuated by Delhi police at stance of government, they entered Congress office and beat up workers. This is criminal trespass. Their goondaism has reached its zenith. This won’t be tolerated and will be accounted for,” senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala had said on Wednesday.

Reports had also stated that senior leader Sachin Pilot had been detained by the police. Moreover, several Youth Congress and Mahila Congress workers protesting outside the Congress office on Akbar Road were claimed to be roughed up by the police and forcibly taken away on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Grand Old Party staged various protests across the country as part of its ‘Chalo Raj Bhavan’ call.

In Telangana, the protests turned violent — a two-wheeler was set on fire at the busy Khairatabad circle near the Raj Bhavan causing a huge traffic jam in which ambulances were also stuck. Some youth activists damaged the state-run RTC buses.

Former Union minister Renuka Chowdhury, part of the protests, also created a ruckus by holding the shirt collar of a male police officer on duty. She was later packed off in a police van with the help of lady police.

In Chandigarh, the police used water cannon to disperse Congress workers taking a march towards the Raj Bhavan. The protest was led by Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring.

In Assam, Congress leaders, including party state unit president Bhupen Kumar Borah, and deputy leader of Opposition Rakibul Hussain were detained when they tried to proceed to Raj Bhavan.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi walks towards Enforcement Directorate (ED) office after being summoned for questioning in connection with National Herald money laundering case in New Delhi. AFP

Criticism of the protests

Predictably, the protests by the Congress against their leader being questioned by the ED has been slammed by the BJP.

Union minister Smriti Irani in a press conference had come down heavily on the party for the protests. She was quoted as saying, “Congress leaders have taken to the streets to pressurize an investigating agency openly because their corruption has been exposed...It's an attempt to protect the assets of the Gandhi family.”

She added that the senior Congress-ruled leaders had been specially invited to put pressure on an investigation agency.

The Arunachal Pradesh unit of the BJP also criticised the Congress for their ‘satyagraha marches’. The BJP slammed the Congress for accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP of misusing the agency to destroy an individual’s political career and the image of the party.

“The case was filed by Subramanian Swamy in 2013 and not by any of the BJP workers. The PM and the BJP have nothing to do with the case,” the saffron party’s state unit spokesperson Nabam Vivek told a press conference.

However, it wasn’t just the BJP that condemned the party for its protest. The Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, has also called out the party’s hypocritical stance.

In its mouthpiece Jago Bangla, the Bengal ruling party called Congress’s conduct two-faced.

“TMC is clear in its view; this nationwide protest call by the Congress is an example of politics of opportunism and double standards,” the mouthpiece report read.

The TMC then went on to take a dig at senior Congress leader Adhi Ranjan Chowdhury from the state. It said: “Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who has brought his party’s tally to zero in the state, used to attack TMC every day. What does he or the Congress leadership have to say now?”

“He should support the ED’s move against Rahul-Sonia just as he hailed the assault by Central agencies against the TMC,” the article read.

Trinamool leader Madan Mitra also attacked the Congress, saying: “It is unfortunate that when their leaders are summoned, Mamata Banerjee raises her voice but when ED or CBI calls Anubrata Mandal or someone else from our party, no one speaks a word. It is their double standard,” he said.

Political pundits have also questioned the party’s decision to focus on the matter of Rahul’s questioning rather than issues such as the bulldozer demolition action or even the price rise the country is witnessing.

A News18 report said, “Will large-scale protests help the party get the support of the masses to attempt winning back power, especially when the central issue is corruption?”

It added, “The public mood is already against dynastic politics and the UPA was voted out of power on the issue of corruption. Rallying on the streets for Rahul Gandhi for this cause shows the party is still stuck in the old dynastic era, instead of letting him face the law in a respectful manner. The events could reinforce the view that the Congress only cares for the Gandhis.”

An Indian Express editorial noted, “Protecting a certain leader seems to be the main priority of the party. Therefore, it chooses to bring in its top guns to protest in Delhi and ensure that their loyalties are adequately displayed. These protests may also build up to the second ascension of Rahul Gandhi. In other words, everything is connected to intra-party dynamics. No direct connect with ordinary people is involved in this choice. It also fails to connect the action to the more general harassment of its own party workers by the regime.”

It appears that the protests haven’t gone down well with the common people who have problems of their own.

With inputs from agencies

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Why Congress protests against Rahul Gandhi’s questioning by ED have been dubbed ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’
Why Congress protests against Rahul Gandhi’s questioning by ED have been dubbed ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’
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