New Delhi, Mar 19 (PTI) The Congress Sunday termed Delhi Police's action against Rahul Gandhi the worst case of "political vendetta" and "harassment" while asserting the Centre was setting a wrong precedent as central ministers may face similar action in states.
A police team headed by Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Sagar Preet Hooda arrived at Rahul Gandhi's 12, Tughlaq Lane, residence around 10 am on Sunday and was able to meet the Congress leader after two hours, officials said, adding the team left around 1 pm.
According to the police, Gandhi stated in Srinagar during the Bharat Jodo Yatra that "I have heard that women are still being sexually assaulted", and since the Yatra had passed through Delhi also, they wanted to ascertain if any victim had approached the Congress leader here so that they can initiate a probe into the matter.
Addressing a joint press conference at the Congress headquarters here, party leaders Ashok Gehlot, Jairam Ramesh and Abhishek Singhvi said the move was a clear case of "vendetta, intimidation and harassment" against the former Congress chief.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge termed the Delhi police's move a "tamasha" and alleged that the government was trying to harass Rahul Gandhi. He, however, asserted that neither Gandhi nor the party would be intimidated or cowed down by such actions.
Gehlot said the BJP government at the Centre was "setting a bad example" by registering cases over opposition leaders' statements made during political campaigns. The BJP leaders could face similar action over remarks made in states not ruled by it, he said.
If Union ministers make similar comments during elections in states ruled by non-BJP parties, they may face an action similar to that by the Delhi Police, the Rajasthan chief minister said.
"The precedents being set by them are such that when central ministers come and talk about rapes or casteism or untouchability, will our government register cases against them or give them notices? They are setting such precedents in which they themselves will get trapped," Gehlot warned.
Slamming the police action, Singhvi said the statements in question were made by Gandhi in Srinagar on January 30 and is not under Delhi Police's jurisdiction.
He wondered why the Delhi Police was showing so much urgency, making frequent visits to Gandhi's residence, 45 days after the remarks were made by the former Congress chief during the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The move was aimed at diverting attention from the Adani issue. But the Congress and other opposition parties will not back down, the Congress spokesperson said "It is unprecedented and unheard of and smacks of the worst kind of pettiness. We are very clear that this smacks of the worst kind of political vendetta, harassment and intimidation," Singhvi told reporters.
The Congress leader said that during the 140-day political yatra which traversed around 4,000 km, passing through 12 state and two union territories Rahul Gandhi interacted with lakhs of people.
But he is being asked questions about women who had allegedly complained to him about molestation, and domestic violence and asked details of those women, places, and dates, Singhvi said, adding they will "of course collect and collate data and revert to the Delhi Police within the shortest time available".
He claimed for 45 days the Delhi Police had no problem and now on March 16, having agreed with Rahul Gandhi's request for about 10 days to respond, they land up again on Sunday morning. "This is only to sensationalise, create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation and the urgency is hyper now after having waited for 45 days." Singhvi said, "I do not think that we have seen this kind of politics ever... We, therefore, condemn it. We will of course have a detailed reply (to the police notice). But we want to bring to the attention of the nation that this is completely unheard of in India but it is completely expected of the ruling dispensation." "I don't think any political leader in a campaign is expected to stop immediately and seek recourse to the law based on several interactions and complaints and things told to him during the campaign," he noted.
"It is very clear that there is no reason other than vendetta and all this cannot happen without instructions from the higher-ups." Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh alleged that the incident was an example of the Narendra Modi government's politics of fear and intimidation.
"This is being done deliberately so that the people, country and Parliament's attention is diverted from the Adani scam. Ever since 16 parties unitedly demanded the JPC and ever since Rahul Gandhi talked about the Adani scam in the Lok Sabha, this strategy is being adopted by the Modi government to try to defame him by distorting what he said in Cambridge.
"We have proof of what he has said and what he is being charged for. This is a strategy under which he is not allowed to speak in Lok Sabha despite him meeting the Speaker. But this strategy will not succeed," he said.
Gehlot said this is not a normal incident when police go knocking on the doors of a national leader. "It is not just instructions that come from above, but even monitoring is being done by them," he alleged.
"What is this tamasha? The new model of toppling governments in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, through horse trading. Is this democracy?" He alleged that no stone was left unturned to topple the Congress government in Rajasthan, but it was saved. "The situation is very serious and the time has come for everyone to think about it," the Rajasthan chief minister said.
"During Indira ji's time when the Janata Party rule had come, they indulged in such kind of activities and the people responded strongly and in 1980 Indira Gandhi got an overwhelming majority and returned to power," he said, adding that the same will happen again going by this government's actions.
Adolf Hitler was very popular initially but everyone saw what happened to him thereafter, he added. PTI SKC SKC NSD NSD