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War of words after Digvijaya Singh thanks Germany on Rahul issue

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 30-03-2023 Manoj C G
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AMID THE ongoing war of words between the Congress and BJP over Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha, Germany has said that it has “taken note” of the development, triggering a fresh political slugfest after senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh thanked Berlin for “taking note of how democracy is being compromised in India”.

Singh’s comments gave the BJP fresh ammunition, as it accused the Congress of seeking “foreign interference” in India’s internal affairs. The BJP has been attacking Rahul over his recent remarks in London that democracy was under stress and attack in India. It stalled Parliament for several days, demanding an apology from Rahul.

Under attack, the Congress said it believes that “India’s democratic processes themselves have to deal with the threats posed to democracy” by the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Read |Digvijaya Singh again: Cong leader re-lands himself on the wrong side of party line

Singh triggered the political firestorm after he shared a video of the comments made by a spokesperson of Germany’s foreign ministry, which was tweeted by Richard Walker, chief international editor of Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW). “Thank you Germany Foreign Affairs Ministry and Richard Walker for taking note of how Democracy is being compromised in India through persecution of Rahul Gandhi,” Singh tweeted.


In the video clip with English subtitles, the German foreign ministry spokesperson said: “We have taken note of the verdict of first instance against the Indian Opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as well as the suspension of his parliamentary mandate. To our knowledge, Mr Gandhi is in a position to appeal the verdict. It will then become clear whether this verdict will stand and whether the suspension of his mandate has any basis. We expect that the standards of judicial independence and fundamental democratic principles will equally apply to the proceedings against Rahul Gandhi.”

Rahul was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha on March 24, a day after he was convicted by a Surat court and sentenced to two years in jail in a defamation case over his Modi surname remark. The court suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal.

Hitting out at the Congress, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted: “Apparent that the Congress wants foreign interference in our affairs. Sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Communist Party of China with opaque contents. During interactions abroad, plead for help to change government. Thank them when help forthcoming. Any more proof needed?”

Her Cabinet colleagues joined in. “Disgrace to the nation, the Congress and Rahul Gandhi don’t believe in fighting India’s democratic, political and legal battle within the country, hence, inviting foreign powers to interfere in our internal matters. But New India headed by Narendra Modi ji will not tolerate any foreign intervention,” said Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur.

“Thank you Rahul Gandhi for inviting foreign powers for interference into India’s internal matters. Remember, Indian judiciary can’t be influenced by foreign interference. India won’t tolerate ‘foreign influence’ anymore because our Prime Minister is Shri Narendra Modiji,” tweeted Law Minister Kiren Rijiju.

The Congress initially hit back at Rijiju but changed tack later. “Mr Rijiju, why divert from the main issue? The issue is that the Prime Minister cannot answer Rahul Gandhi’s questions about Adani... Instead of misleading people, please answer the questions,” Congress media department head Pawan Khera tweeted.

By evening, Congress communication department Jairam Ramesh said: “The Congress firmly believes that India’s democratic processes themselves have to deal with the threats posed to our democracy by Mr Modi’s assault on our institutions and his politics of vendetta, intimidation, threats and harassment. The Congress and Opposition parties will take him on fearlessly.”

Earlier this week, the US had also said that it was watching Rahul’s case. “Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we’re watching Mr Gandhi’s case in Indian courts,” US Department of State Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel had said at a press briefing in Washington.

“The US engages with the Government of India on our shared commitment to democratic values, including of course freedom of expression in our engagements with our Indian partners,” Patel had said.

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