AgustaWestland: Facing heat in Parliament, Congress hits the streets

New Delhi: Having run out of almost all possible options to defend itself in the AgustaWestland case – with its demand for a Supreme Court monitored probe rejected in the Parliament on Wednesday – the Congress has decided to hit the streets on 6 May to present its argument in front of the public.

A major show of strength is being organised by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi on the streets of the national capital, where the party's top leadership including its MPs will gherao the Parliament by conducting a march from Jantar Mantar.

Congress is planning a march following AgustaWestland bust-up

Congress planning to hold a march on Friday following the AgustaWestland bust-up in Parliament

The idea is to counter the Modi government's onslaught on the Congress party, which the latter is calling a campaign of "deceit and deliberate lies against the Opposition".

Calling it a “Save democracy” (Prajatantra Bachao) march, Randeep Surjewala, in-charge of communications, All India Congress Committee, said, “A march will be taken out by the Congress party led by its president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi from Jantar Mantar to the Parliament on 6 May. This 'save democracy' march will be taken out in protest of Modi government’s failure to do anything about the issues of concern.”

He added, “BJP president Amit Shah and the party leaders have become masters in pursuing politics of deceit and deliberate lies. They seriously need to introspect on whether mudslinging and muck-raking can ever replace the truth? Can smear campaigns and hatchet jobs of BJP's 'Dirty Tricks department' defend the 'Operation Cover-up' of BJP government in helping Agusta Westland?”

Already on the back-foot due to a fierce attack from the BJP on the AgustaWestland issue, the Congress has been trying desperately to change the public perception towards the party and its top leadership.

The Congress had walked out of the Upper House on Wednesday, after its demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe of the issue was turned down.

“It’s very unfortunate that not much of our side of the story on AgustaWestland is being carried in the media. Even our demand for a Supreme Court-monitored fair probe was turned down. The Modi government, through malicious campaign, has been trying to portray Congress as a ‘villain’ in this case, which is false. Through this march we want to tell public the truth,” a senior Congress party leader remarked.

It is an unlikely event when the top brass of the Congress party hits the streets to make their voice heard; but in the recent past, whenever it has done so, it had been related to corruption charges against the first family of the Congress.

Past incidents

After the NDA came to power in 2014, on three occasions Sonia Gandhi led protest marches along with other party leaders as a show of strength to communicate the party's message to public:

12 March, 2015: In a rare gesture, the Congress president had led a march to the residence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to express the party’s solidarity with him a day after Special Court summoned Singh over irregularities in coal mine allocations. The march took place in the absence of Rahul Gandhi, who was on a sabbatical.

17 March 2015: In a big show of opposition unity, Sonia Gandhi led a march of over 100 lawmakers from 14 parties to the Rashtrapati Bhawan in protest against land reforms crucial to the government's economic agenda and submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee.

3 November 2015: Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi led the party's leaders and parliamentarians in a march from Parliament House to Rashtrapati Bhavan protesting against the Modi government on rising intolerance and communalism.

December 2015: prior to the Gandhis appearing before the court in the National Herald case, the top Congress leaders hit the street with a rally.

“It has been seen that whenever the Congress party has faced heat due to charges of corruption against it, like in the case of coal scam, National Herald case or Agusta Westland, either the party president Sonia Gandhi or the top leaders have rallied on the streets to mobilize public opinion in its favour. Somewhere, the Congress is fearing that it’s losing trust amongst public due to allegations of corruption and scams against it,” a senior journalist in the know of things said.

This time too, the entire Congress leadership has come together as a show of strength, as they feel that the BJP has been “selectively attacking their top leadership”. The Friday rally at Jantar Mantar will be a test of the party's ability to mobilise public opinion in its favour.


Updated Date: May 06, 2016 11:42 AM

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