In a show of strength at the Jantar Mantar here on Friday, a combative Congress, led by party president Sonia Gandhi, courted arrest, while training its guns on the BJP-led NDA regime.

The party charged Prime Minster Narendra Modi with “pursuing a strategy” to “destroy the Congress,” for not doing enough to help people in the drought-hit parts of the country and for the “murder of democracy”: the last reference was to the toppling of its Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

In the morning, if the entire top Congress leadership — including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the party leaders in the two Houses of Parliament Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad — hit the streets, about 2,000 party workers, mobilised from neighbouring States, choked the area, straining against the police barricades.


As they attempted to break the police cordon, chanting, “Down with dictatorship; AgustaWestland is BJP’s game,” they were cane-charged by the police

Ms. Gandhi, Mr. Gandhi and Dr. Singh, among others were later arrested, taken to the Parliament Street police station and released within 20 minutes.

Addressing the party’s ‘Save Democracy’ rally, Ms. Gandhi warned the government: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Congress is weak. We won’t allow democratic institutions to be weakened or destroyed… Uttarakhand’s jungles are burning, but nothing is being done about it because there is no government.”

A few hours later, the party was exulting as the Supreme Court, in a historic judgment, ordered a floor test in Uttarakhand, while barring the presence of the nine rebel Congress MLAs. At a briefing later in the day, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “This is a resounding defeat for those who have trampled on democracy and held the will of the people to ransom.”

Call to ‘unmask’ Modi

Ms. Gandhi asserted that her party would play the role of an “alert” opposition with “full vigour” both inside and outside Parliament, while exhorting the Congress workers to “unmask” the Modi government in a democratic way: “We will take detractors head on. Don’t try to frighten or defame us.” In an oblique reference to State elections in Delhi and Bihar in which the BJP did poorly, the Congress president said “They should understand that when matters would become unbearable, the people of India know how to teach them a lesson…. The way the Modi government is playing a fraud on the mandate, it seems its days are numbered.”

‘Divisive politics’

Accusing the BJP of attempting to divide people on the basis of religion, region, language and eating habits, she alleged that minorities were living under fear and Dalits, women and tribals were being given a raw deal by changes in laws pertaining to Panchayati Raj institutions.

But the AgustaWestland issue was also referred to at the rally with Ms. Gandhi targeting the BJP-led government of starting “this game of levelling baseless allegations against leaders of Opposition parties.”

Meanwhile, in the Lok Sabha, speaking on the AgustaWestland deal, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia told the BJP-led NDA government: “We want a Supreme Court monitored investigation, and its reports should be placed in the House every three months.”

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