Congress, BJP lock horns over Rahul’s remarks during US visit

Rahul Gandhi

The Congress leader, who answered a range of questions related to Indian politics during visit to the US, pooh-poohed the saffron party’s charge that he was seeking political support in the US, and said that Congress’ fight with BJP was our internal matter, writes Amit Agnihotri

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the US ahead of PM Modi’s official trip created a buzz around the former Congress chief and helped the grand old party project him as a global leader but the trip also faced criticism from the ruling BJP.

The week-long visit, starting May 30, saw Rahul participate in interactive sessions with academics, lawmakers at Capitol Hill, and Indian diaspora on a range of topics across Stanford University, California, Washington DC and New York.

Rahul also addressed a press conference at the National Press Club where he answered a range of questions related to Indian politics and global affairs.

“The purpose of his (Gandhi’s) trip is to connect, interact and begin a new conversation with various individuals, institutions and media, including the Indian diaspora that is growing in numbers in the United States and abroad to promote the shared values and vision of the real democracy with a focus on freedom, inclusion, sustainability, justice, peace and opportunities world over,” Indian Overseas Congress chairman Sam Pitroda said in a statement before the trip.

In March this year, Rahul had visited the UK during which his remarks alleging that the structures of Indian democracy were under attack and there was a “full-scale assault” on the country’s institutions, had created a row back home.

His remarks had triggered a political slugfest, with the BJP accusing him of maligning India on foreign soil and seeking foreign interventions, and the Congress hitting back at the ruling party by citing instances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising internal politics abroad.

The US visit too was marked by a similar war of words between the ruling BJP and the Congress, which hit back at External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar over his criticism of Rahul Gandhi’s remarks.

“The man who started the practice of taking national politics outside the country was none other than the one who gave you a ministerial position,” Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in response to Jaishankar’s remarks.

“The prime minister has made fun of previous governments and made light of the country’s over-70-year-old history. What Rahul Gandhi has said is only the truth that a planned systematic attack on our constitutional bodies is happening,” Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said.

On his part, Rahul clarified that he was not seeking support from anybody in the US and noted that the Congress fight with the BJP was an internal matter.

“I am very clear that our fight is our fight… But there is a group of young students from India here and I want to have a relationship with them. I want to talk to them. It’s my right to do it. I don’t understand why the Prime Minister doesn’t come here and do it,” he said.

He further said that it was important for political leaders to put themselves in situations where they faced questions and learnt, and if that meant not being able to answer some questions or “occasional slip-ups”, it was fine for he still learnt a lot.

Rahul also touched upon some international issues like India’s relations with Russia, and country’s festering border row with China.