New Delhi, (IANS) Facing charges of corruption, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday took to the streets to accuse the government of working under RSS’ diktat and pledged that her party won’t be cowed down.
Addressing thousands of supporters in the heart of the capital, Gandhi along with former prime minister Manmohan Singh and her son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also courted arrest.
“A strong message should go from here and it must be heard not only by those in from Raisina Hill but those also in Nagpur, on whose directions the (Narendra) Modi government is functioning,” she thundered.
Gandhi’s reference to the Prime Minister’s Office at Raisina Hill and the seat of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh headquarters in Nagpur.
Amid incessant shouting of “Sonia Gandhi Zindabad!”, she said the way the Modi government “is betraying the mandate of people, it appears their days are over”.
In her around 15-minute speech in Hindi from a makeshift platform, the Congress president made no reference by name to the AgustaWestland chopper deal which the government is using to charge her and the earlier Congress regime with corruption.
“I want to caution the government that they should not make the mistake of considering the Congress weak,” she said. “The Congress will never bend to injustice.
“Any number of attempts may be made to scare us, to defame us. We are not going to bend. Life has taught me to struggle.
“We have always faced challenges. If some think it is easy to push the Congress from the path of saving democracy, they don’t know what stuff we are made of,” she added to thunderous applause.
She said fear was being created among minorities and the society was being divided in the name of language, dress code and food habits.
“Atrocities are being committed against students. Anyone who does not agree to them faces the music.
“They must understand… The day the threshold of tolerance is breached, the masses will teach them a lesson.”
Attacking the government for ousting the Congress government in Uttarakhand, she said the forest fires in the hill state could not be controlled in time as “there was no government”.
“Modi and his political advisors call themselves a social organisation. What do they know about people’s woes? Whatever may happen to democracy, their only goal is to see that everything remains in their grip.”
She accused the Modi government of making baseless allegations against its opponents to hide its own failures.
Rahul Gandhi, the first among the major speakers, accused the Modi government of destabilising Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“Today, in India, the voice of only two people are heard, Narendra Modiji and Mohan Bhagwatji,” he said, referring to the prime minister and the RSS chief.
Manmohan Singh – who looked physically weak – spoke on similar lines after Rahul Gandhi, accusing the BJP of demolishing democratic structures.
Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi then courted arrest after being stopped by police from carrying out a march to Parliament barely one kilometer away.
The show of strength by the Congress came on a day Lok Sabha took up discussion on the AgustaWestland chopper deal.
Soon after Sonia Gandhi finished her speech, Congress workers sought to march towards Parliament by breaking the police barricades.
Police sought to push back Congress activists so that the security cordon around Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh was not broken. In the melee, the name tags of some policemen came off their uniform.
Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury climbed the grill outside the Parliament Street police station. Police said Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were released after about 30 minutes.
Several other party leaders including A.K. Antony, Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jyotiraditya Scindia also courted arrest.