Under attack in the Agusta Westland helicopter bribery case, the Congress held a protest march in the Capital on Friday in what can best be described as a valiant attempt to deflect attention from the issue of corruption and shift the focus to people’s issues like rising prices, the agrarian crisis and the country’s ailing economy.
Billed as a ‘Save Democracy rally, Congress members led by party president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also violated orders to court arrest at Parliament Street. They were detained briefly at the police station and allowed to leave. Congress MP from Silchar Sushmita Dev was also part of the protest.
The rally was originally planned to protest against the toppling of Congress governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh by the ruling BJP but the Agusta Westland case added a fresh dimension to these protests. The political discourse over the past ten days has been dominated by a high-voltage campaign launched by the BJP against Sonia Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders in connection with corruption charges in the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from an Italian firm.
With the BJP keeping the focus on the helicopter bribery case to ensure that corruption remains centre stage, the Congress leadership attempted to draw attention to the Modi government’s deficiencies and its failure to deliver on its electoral promises. Although the Agusta Westland case cast a definite shadow over the protest rally, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi made no mention of this matter in their speeches.
‘Do not try to frighten or defame us, life has taught me to struggle, we have faced a lot of challenges,’ Sonia Gandhi declared as a large assembly of slogan-shouting, placard-waving Congress workers cheered her on.
Speaking about a gamut of issues, Sonia Gandhi accused the Modi government of toppling democratically elected governments through the use of money and muscle power, describing it as a murder of democracy. Bringing back the focus on people’s issues, Sonia Gandhi drew attention to the poor plight of farmers, minorities and Dalits, the government’s inability to check inflation and its attempts to divide people on the basis of caste and religion.