Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was disqualified recently as a Member of Parliament after being convicted in a defamation case, has addressed a rally today at Kolar, Karnataka, promising big rewards for the state if his party is voted to power in the coming Assembly elections. He also said that the BJP could not intimidate him by getting him disqualified as an MP.
Rahul, who has been sentenced to prison after this conviction — the sentence is currently suspended and his bail is extended — said, “They (BJP) think that they will intimidate me with disqualification, but I am not scared.” He added, “Disqualify me, put me in jail, I am not scared.”
As to what rewards Karnataka can expect from the Congress, if it is voted to power, Rahul said that people in the state would get 200 units of free electricity will be provided; Rs 2,000 per month for women; Rs 3,000 for every graduate for two years; and Rs 1,500 to diploma holders.
The Kolar rally was attended by Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge; Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief DK Shivakumar; former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah; and party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala. While Rahul spoke in Hindi, his speech was translated into Kannada for the audience by a state leader.
‘Modi, Modi, Modi’
Kolar is same place where Rahul had made his “Modi surname” speech before the general elections of 2019. In that speech, raising a lot of corruption accusations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several businessmen, including the fugitive Nirav Modi, who is accused of fraud and money laundering amounting to USD2 billion, Rahul had said, “One small question, how are the names of all these thieves ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’…?”
He was taken to court by a BJP lawmaker named Purnesh Modi over this speech, and was convicted of defamation in March 2023. Since then, Rahul jail sentence has been suspended but the conviction has not been stayed or overturned. He has also begun vacating his MP’s bungalow in New Delhi.
Today’s Kolar rally takes place after a couple of postponements. Titled the ‘Jai Bharat’ rally, in continuation of Rahul’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ undertaken a few months ago, the Kolar public meeting comes at a very crucial time, as the state goes to polls in May, and the Assembly elections in this state are being seen as a test of strength for both the BJP and the Congress before the 2024 general elections.
While the BJP is the ruling party, the Congress has a considerable presence in the state, and the third main player is Janata Dal (Secular), formed by ex-Prime Minister and Karnataka politician HD Deve Gowda.
‘I was not given a chance’
Talking about the defamation case and his disqualification, Rahul said at today’s rally, “I wrote two letters to the Speaker that I want to respond to the allegations against me, but I was not given a chance. He laughed and said, ‘I can’t do anything.’ He said to drink tea with him and he’ll explain. I said, ‘You are the speaker of Parliament, whatever you want to do in Parliament you can do. Why are you not doing your work?’ He is scared to put the Adani issue in Parliament and after that, I was disqualified from Parliament,” Gandhi said.
Accusing the BJP government in Karnataka of corruption, the Congress leader said, “The BJP govt in Karnataka took 40 per cent commission for whatever work they did. A letter was written to PM that 40 per cent commission is being taken for every work, but he has not yet replied, it means that PM has accepted that 40 per cent commission has been taken.”
Again referring to the Adani group controversy, Rahul said, “I said in Parliament that Adani has a shell company. I questioned who owns the INR20,000 crore? [For the] first time in history, the BJP govt didn’t let Parliament function. Usually, the opposition stops Parliament from functioning.”
The Adani group has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchanges Board of India, following allegations in a report by Hindenburg Research that the group had engaged in stock market manipulation and accounting fraud. The figure of INR20,000 crore is the value of the share sale at the January 2023 Follow-on Public Offering by Adani Enterprises.