Road to 2024 | Congress’s eternal Rahul Gandhi dilemma: Will he, won’t he?

The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 01-08-2022 | 05:50 pm

Road to 2024 | Congress’s eternal Rahul Gandhi dilemma: Will he, won’t he?

Road to 2024 is a weekly newsletter by the national bureau. Click here to subscribeOnce the turbulent Monsoon session of Parliament ends in the second week of August, the Congress will get down to addressing an issue it can no longer ignore – electing a new president. An emotional, divisive, and sensitive issue but a crucial elephant in the AICC room.The grand old party had been straddling the fence long enough. Between August 21 and September 20 — the timeline drawn up and announced by the party last year — the Congress will finally have to elect a new president to replace Sonia Gandhi, who returned to the helm in August 2019, three months after Rahul Gandhi quit as party chief in the wake of the Lok Sabha election rout. Sonia’s appointment was supposed to be an interim arrangement but continued for three years.With a little under two years before the next general elections, the challenges the Congress faces in the August of 2022 are more or less the same as in August 2019.Rahul, if some leaders are to be believed, has still not made up his mind. An ailing Sonia Gandhi wants to step back after putting him in charge and the party leadership frankly doesn’t have the appetite to experiment with a non-Gandhi ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There is no consensus on any other name. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as an alternative has not gained much traction.In his open letter after resigning as party chief in July 2019, Rahul said he had suggested to his colleagues in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that the way forward “would be to entrust a group of people with the task of beginning the search for a new president”. He added, “I have empowered them to do so and committed my full support to this process and a smooth transition.”The Rahul conundrumThe easiest way out is for Rahul to return, aided by the time-worn argument that a Gandhi needs to be at the helm to keep the moribund party united and alive.But he, for one, is still said to be reluctant to return to the helm although an overwhelming majority in the party wants him to. After all, he is the face of the party, its de facto head.However, some leaders say, Rahul doesn’t want to be encumbered by the cumbersome and time-consuming day-to-day organisational tasks such as the appointment of state-unit heads and office-bearers down to the district level, and playing the role of the final arbiter in feuds – and there is no dearth of that in states where the party is in power.In his open letter, he said, “It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power, no one sacrifices power. But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle.” Will he stick to that?But then the question the party is confronted with is, “If not Rahul, then who?”Continuing with status quoWhile the party more or less wants Rahul to return and lead from the front, some of the leaders believe in continuing with the present arrangement. This section within the party — those who want Sonia to continue till the Lok Sabha elections — includes both Rahul baiters and his well-wishers. His well-wishers say he should travel across the country and rejuvenate the party and that he should not be tied down to the post.His in-house critics, on the other hand, believe the Congress cannot stage a comeback with him at the helm. They argue he cannot match up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi if pitted as his counter. His supporters say he is anyway seen as the challenger to Modi and it does not matter whether he holds the post of Congress president or not. It is immaterial whether he is the president or not — he is still the challenger.While most of the leaders rule out a split if Rahul returns to the helm, some argue that if the party continues its losing streak. Over a dozen states go to the polls before 2024 (among them Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat by the end of this year and Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Telangana next year) and the exodus from the party cannot be stemmed.Moreover, Sonia, 75, hasn’t been in good health and is keen that Rahul take charge. More than once, in meetings of the CWC, she has expressed her reluctance to continue as the interim president. Some of the leaders, in private, talk about the possibility of Priyanka taking over but the idea has gained no traction. It is not known whether Sonia will be open to such an idea. Moreover, many believe the Sonia-Rahul-Sonia-Priyanka option will be poor optics.A non-GandhiAt the meeting of the CWC held in May 2019, days after the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul reportedly suggested that a non-Gandhi should succeed him. The proposal was, of course, turned down and the party apparatchiks managed to convince Sonia to return.Three years down the line, that is an idea that the party leadership is unwilling to even explore. But what if Rahul insists and backs a leader — young or old — to take over? But the idea of a twin power centre is something that party leaders dread. As things stand today, party leaders hope to persuade Rahul to file his nomination for the post of president. His aides have been arguing that returning as Congress president through an election process — where his in-house critics have the opportunity to field a challenger if they want — is the best-case scenario.For the Congress, the more things change, the more they remain the same. So back to the old question: Will Rahul Gandhi come back as party president?

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Gujarat Assembly polls: Congress announces ‘page commandos’ to take on BJP’s page committees
The Indian Express | 5 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 12:50 am
The Indian Express
5 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 12:50 am

Following the footsteps of the BJP, the Gujarat Congress has instructed its workers to form page commandos to prepare voters’ lists, identify the party’s voters and ensure they reach the polling stations. With Assembly elections around the corner, the instruction came at the party’s ‘maru booth maru gaurav’ (my booth, my pride) event in Surat Tuesday. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot who was to visit Surat and Rajkot on Tuesday to meet Congress leaders for the first time after being appointed senior observer, could not come. The special plane he was flying in, from Jaipur, was reportedly not allowed to land in Surat due to bad weather. He has now rescheduled his visit for Wednesday when he will only go to Vadodara and Ahmedabad. Gehlot will land in Vadodara Wednesday morning and meet Central Gujarat leaders and then head to Ahmedabad to meet north Gujarat leaders and is then expected to address a press conference.“Today, we have come up with matdar yadi (voters’ list) of 35 assembly seats of South Gujarat and handed them over to the district heads. A single page of matdar yadi (voting member list) consists of 30 voters. The page commandos should identify at least 19 Congress voters from the list and take them to polling stations for voting and also see who are left over and repeat it. It is the duty of page commandos to see nobody is left from the voting list. Generally, the average voting turnout of the assembly seat is between 65 to 70 per cent. We have to target those who had not voted and take them to polling stations as they are the voters of the Congress. If the voters’ turnout increases by 20 per cent, then we are sure to win 125 seats in the Gujarat assembly elections,” said state Congress President Jagdish Thakor. He added that in the Udaipur meeting, it was decided to form a new structure of organisation. In the city area, the ward committee will be treated as mandals and the polling booth committee will be treated as sector, while in the rural Talukas, panchayat seats will be treated as mandals and district panchayat seats as sectors.He also alleged that Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, who was to begin his three-day state visit and attend the event in South Gujarat, was denied landing permission at Surat airport Tuesday citing poor weather conditions. “I am afraid they will not allow us to organise a rally here like they did not allow the landing of Gehlot’s aircraft at the Surat airport today. He has been ready since 9.30 am in the morning to attend the first political meeting in Surat, but his aircraft was denied landing. Today, we have come to know what will happen if an airport is sold or privatised. The decision to give permission for flying and landing of aircraft lies with the airport authority,” he said.Thakor also announced various steps to begin the election campaign in the state from August 20. He urged workers to make elaborate arrangements for the rallies of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. “Around one lakh people should participate in the rally with 25,000 bikes and 10,000 cars,” he said.In a veiled reference to Gujarat BJP President CR Paatil, Thakor further said, “The Surat man is moving around the state and talking about the page committee and page president but it is all false. Their internal party survey says that the party will not cross 70 seats in the elections.”Gujarat, earlier known after leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel and for its cooperative movement, has now become a hub of drugs, said All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary BM Sandeep. “In the past four to five months, drugs worth over Rs 40,000 crore were seized from Gujarat ports. Through media reports and sources, we have come to know that drugs worth over Rs 2 lakh crore landed at Gujarat ports and were supplied to different parts of the country.”He added that the party has toured across the 35 assembly seats of South Gujarat. “During the last assembly elections, we (Congress) could not form the government due to the poor performance in South Gujarat. A majority of the area in the region are tribal and they face great problems such as land acquisitions for different development projects like the bullet train, Vedanta project, leopard park, Par-Tapi-Narmada river-linking project, Express highway project, etc,” he said, emphasising the need to organise meetings with the tribal communities in different parts of South Gujarat.Dr. Raghu Sharma, Gujarat Congress incharge, said his party had already discussed the announcements made by AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal in the state. “Kejriwal should go to Rajasthan and see how the health infrastructure is. Insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh is given to the citizens. During the covid pandemic, the work done by the Rajasthan government was excellent and the work was appreciated by PM Narendra Modi,” he said.

Gujarat Assembly polls: Congress announces ‘page commandos’ to take on BJP’s page committees
‘Advocates’ of Indian Independence and the Bombay High Court
The Indian Express | 5 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 12:50 am
The Indian Express
5 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 12:50 am

As the country celebrates the 76th year of Indian Independence, the historical 160-year-old Bombay High Court stands tall in the nationalist movement with its strong association with prominent freedom fighters. It is from this court where most of them began their legal career before they took a plunge into politics while some were tried in the court in cases that had an impact on India’s freedom movement.The roll call is both impressive and inspiring – Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Lokmanya Tilak, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Vitthalbhai Patel, Bhulabhai Desai, K M Munshi, Justice M G Ranade, Justice Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozshah Mehta among many others.  Their enrolment certificates, plaques, and portraits tracing back to their stints before coming to the High Court are an integral part of the majestic building. Maharashtra Tourism Department conducts heritage walks through the building on non-working weekends. Courtroom number 46, known as Central Court in which the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court currently sits, houses portraits of Gandhiji, Tilak and Ambedkar.On returning to India after his higher studies, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar started his law practice at the Bombay High Court in July 1923.  Senior advocate Avinash J Rana in his book The Bombay High Court: A chronicle of judges and lawyers’ writes, “Ambedkar did not have a large practice (in HC)… But there is no gainsaying that he was a man of immense scholarship, the range of his reading and knowledge was not confined to the law and included history, sociology and economics…”“..At one stage, owing to his learning and status in public life, there was a possibility of Ambedkar being appointed a judge of the High Court,” says P B Vachha, in his book Famous Judges, Lawyers and Cases of Bombay (A Judicial History of Bombay during the British Period).Ambedkar argued several cases as a lawyer before various courts. One of them includes the 1926 Keshavrao Jedhe-Dinkarrao Javalkar case, wherein Javalkar, belonging to the Non-brahmin movement in the state, had authored a book called Deshache Dushman (Enemies of the Country), which criticised Tilak and Vishnushatri Chiplunkar for their views on non-brahmin communities. Jedhe was a publisher of the book.  The trial court convicted the duo, after which Ambedkar represented them in appeal arguing that Tilak and Chiplunkar were not alive and the third party cannot file defamation cases. This was accepted by the judge and set Jedhe and Javalkar free.Among other cases, Ambedkar, in 1933 defended social reformist Raghunath Dhondo Karve, who was charged with obscenity for publishing certain content in a magazine called Samaj Swasthya to create awareness about sexual health, birth control, among others.Ambedkar became the Principal of the Government Law College in 1935 and was later elected to the Constituent Assembly and became the chairman of the Drafting Committee and also became the first Law Minister of independent India.Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known as Mahatma Gandhi, came back from England after becoming a barrister and immediately applied to the Bombay High Court on November 16, 1891. He practised for a short time in Mumbai Small Cause Court and went to Rajkot to practice. In 1922, he was sentenced to six years in prison for sedition based on his writings and was later released in 1924 due to medical reasons. After the sentence, his name was removed from the Roll of Inner Temple, London, and immediately, the then Bombay government placed the Inner Temple order before the Bombay High Court. Subsequently, his name was deleted as an advocate of the High Court on January 17, 1923.Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, who became the Union Minister and Governor of Uttar Pradesh in Independent India, had practised before the High Court from 1913 and joined the chamber of Bhulabhai Desai, another proponent of Indian freedom. As per the High Court archives, Munshi was in close association with Tilak, Annie Besant, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Sardar Patel.  Munshi was a member of the Constituent Assembly, which framed the Constitution and later became a founding member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Desai, who acted as the Advocate General in 1926 for a short time, later defended accused military officers in Indian National Army (INA) trial in 1945-46 towards the end of the Second World War.Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, after he returned to India from England, applied to the Bombay High Court on February 14, 1913 and was enrolled the next day. He, however, did not practice in Bombay but successfully practised at Barsod, Gujarat. Within a few years, he entered active politics in 1917 and was one of the leading freedom fighters and also responsible for integrating native states into the Union of India as the first Home Minister of the country. His elder brother Vitthalbhai Patel, who was the co-founder of ‘Swaraj Party’ had long practice at the Bombay High Court since July 1908.“In spite of the verdict of the jury I maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations and it may be the will of providence that the cause which I represent may prosper more by my suffering than by my remaining free.” These are words of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, which are engraved on a marble commemorative plaque outside the Central Court on the second floor of the HC building.  The declaration came as the last words of Tilak, one of the prominent leaders of India’s fight for freedom at his historic trial in 1908 in the Central Court.  After finding him guilty, an Indian judge sentenced Tilak to six years of transportation to Mandalay, Burma, and fined him Rs 1000. Tilak faced three sedition trials in the Bombay High Court.In 1897, he was charged with sedition for writing articles and speeches and the British government had alleged that the killings of its two officers, including Collector W C Rand, who was responsible for plague measures in Poona (now Pune) were due to Tilak’s incitement. Tilak was initially granted bail by the High Court and was later found guilty by the jury, sentencing him to 18-month imprisonment. Interestingly, the judge who announced Tilak’s sentence in the second trial, Justice Dinshaw D Davar, had represented him in his first trial in 1897.In 1916, Tilak was prosecuted for the third time on the charges of sedition, when he was represented for the second time by the then renowned lawyer Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who was convinced that Tilak had been prosecuted for his strong views about Home Rule and independence for India and defended him, which led to Tilak’s acquittal by the High Court and was ordered to furnish a bond of Rs 20, 000 of “good behaviour.”Mahadeo Govind Ranade was Tilak’s senior in Congress from Pune. After completing his LL.B in 1866, Ranade enrolled as an advocate of the High Court around 1870.  However, he never practised as an advocate and immediately joined the judicial services and served as magistrate and judge of small causes, before he was elevated as High Court judge in 1892.Owing to his constant run-ins with the then British government due to his political and social work, his promotion was delayed.  He founded the Widow Remarriage Association in 1866 and was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress (INC), in 1885.  In 1887, Ranade founded National Social Conference, INC’s social reform cell that discussed and deliberated resolutions passed, including those about marriage age, ill-assorted marriages, polygamy, caste marriages, female education, and so on.“Ranade, besides being a very able and erudite judge, was also a great scholar and made outstanding contributions to Indian history, particularly the history of Maharashtra and also the history of Marathi literature,” Vachha writes.In a largely attended public meeting in then Bombay to mourn Ranade’s death in 1901, his colleague was present. Tyabji, who returned to India in 1867, was the first Indian barrister to practice in the Bombay High Court in its Original jurisdiction and its first Indian barrister judge (which before his time was exclusively in the hands of English barristers). He was elevated to a judge in 1895. “He made a strong, hard-headed and independent judge, ” P B Vachha notes. “Before he was raised to the bench, Tyabji was very well known in public life for the active part he took in all contemporary movements, political, civic, social, and educational, particularly Muslim education, in promoting which he spared no time. He had the distinction of being the first Muslim President of the Indian National Congress (in 1887),” Vachha adds.In 1902, he became the first Indian to hold the post of Acting Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. Tyabji, who was considered among the moderate Muslims in the Indian freedom movement, worked to weaken the Zenana system and campaigned against the ‘purdah’ system.In 1885, he founded the Bombay Presidency Association with K T Telang and Pherozeshah Mehta. “The great triumvirate of Kashinath Trimbak Telang (HC judge), Sir Pherozeshah Mehta ( HC advocate), and Badruddin Tyabji – a Hindu, a Parsi, and a Muslim – each a leader of his own community, each intellectually brilliant, each a first-class public speaker and fired by Indian nationalism, where caste, creed, and religion had no place whatsoever,” Senior advocate Iqbal Chagla writes in a chapter called ‘The renaissance men in robes’ in a book Heritage of Judging: The Bombay High Court through one hundred and fifty years.While the country celebrated the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign on Independence Day, the Bombay High Court on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, had witnessed a one-of-a-kind event, where HC’s last British Chief Justice Sir Leonard Stone unfurled and saluted the Indian National flag inside the Central Court and also a larger flag was hoisted on the premises thereafter. Stone continued as the Chief Justice for another year before Justice Mahommedali Currim Chagla took over as first Indian Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court in 1948.

‘Advocates’ of Indian Independence and the Bombay High Court
Your Daily Wrap: Bihar Cabinet expansion; Karnataka minister’s audio clip row; and more
The Indian Express | 7 hours ago | 16-08-2022 | 10:50 pm
The Indian Express
7 hours ago | 16-08-2022 | 10:50 pm

As the 11 convicted for life in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano, and the murder of seven members of her family, during the 2002 Gujarat riots, walked out of jail on Tuesday, the Congress lashed out at the BJP government, calling the state government order “unprecedented”. With Tuesday marking the death anniversary of A B Vajpayee, Congress leader Pawan Khera said he wanted to remind Prime Minister Narendra Modi again of the Raj Dharma that the former PM had talked about during his visit to Gujarat after the 2002 riots. In May this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Gujarat government to decide, within two months, an application filed by one of the men found guilty in the Bilkis case. The convict had sought “premature” release from prison, where he had spent more than 15 years following conviction in January 2008. A look at what happened to Bilkis in 2002, what the CBI found in its investigation, and how the trial in the case proceeded.In Bihar, 31 ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav’s brother Tej Pratap Yadav, took oath as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expanded his Cabinet today. The swearing-in of the 31 ministers reflects the RJD’s attempt at implementing its “MY (Muslim-Yadav)-plus” strategy while the Janata Dal (United) has stuck to its reliable OBC-EBC-Dalit-Upper caste combination.A controversy has erupted in Karnataka following the emergence of an audio recording linked to Law Minister J C Madhuswamy, who allegedly said the government in the state is not functioning and that the BJP is just managing things until the 2023 Assembly polls. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, however, sought to downplay the minister’s remarks by claiming that the said comments were made in a specific context to the cooperative sector and that everything else was all right in the government. Last year, Madhuswamy’s name was in contention to replace Yediyurappa as CM. Yet, the very qualities that made Madhuswamy a top choice in the books of some in the BJP were also held against him by others in the party — he was too independent, abrasive, outspoken and, crucially, lacked roots in the Sangh Parivar.In the world of Tech: Google executives reportedly warned employees of possible layoffs if the end quarter results don’t look good. A screenshot viewed by Insider reveals that Google Cloud sales leadership threatened its employees, saying there will be an “overall examination of sales productivity and productivity in general” and that if next quarter’s results “don’t look up, there will be blood on the streets.” Meanwhile, Apple laid off many of its contract-based recruiters in the past week, part of a push to rein in the tech giant’s hiring and spending. The recruiters were responsible for hiring new employees for Apple, and the cuts underscore that a slowdown is underway at the company.Political PulseIn the political silence in India over the attack on author Salman Rushdie, leaving him critically injured, the most deafening is of the ruling BJP. While the BJP would have been expected to react to the attack on Rushdie, party leaders – who did not want to come on record – said the circumstances had changed. A conscious decision has been taken by the party now to refrain from commenting on any incident involving international ramifications. The situation has been further complicated by the recent fiasco surrounding statements by its spokesperson Nupur Sharma (since suspended), as well as its mixed feelings about the writer himself who has been critical of the Narendra Modi government. Liz Mathew reports. More From Political PulseOnce burnt, twice shy: What the BJP silence on Rushdie attack tells usJakhars of Abohar: In Warring's crosshairs, Congress MLA and Sunil Jakhar's nephew Sandeep dares party to expel himBihar Cabinet decoded: RJD’s ‘MY-plus’ push, JD(U) sticks to tried-and-tested 11Click here for more From the Urdu Press: As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of Independence, a tidal wave of patriotism swept through the Urdu press, that sought to map the arc of the country’s remarkable journey, its accomplishments and failings, since 1947. The leading Urdu dailies also expressed concerns over widening faultlines in the country, fearing for the future of democracy and constitutionalism — and the fate of minorities — amid a growing atmosphere of division and hate. The horrifying attack on Salman Rushdie in New York, however, met with silence in their editorial pages, although they ran news reports on the stab assault and follow-up stories.Express ExplainedA day after a made-in-India howitzer gun, the ATAGS, was used for the first time in the ceremonial 21-gun salute during the Independence Day celebrations, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Tuesday handed over several new defence systems, including the F-INSAS, the Nipun mines, the Landing Craft Assault (LCA), to the Army. What is the F-INSAS system, and what are Nipun mines? Read here. Best of ExplainedIndependence Day over, here's how to store the National Flag Police to visit Ranveer's home, what obscenity laws did he break?Ola likely to launch an electric car in 2024, what we know about itClick here for more The remains of an Army jawan, Lance Naik Chandrashekhar Harbol, were found on the Siachen Glacier on August 15, more than 38 years after he went missing in an avalanche. The avalanche had claimed the lives of 18 soldiers of the 19th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment while they were out on a mission. What was this mission, for which the 18 soldiers had volunteered knowing fully well the risk they were running? What was the role that 19 Kumaon played in cementing India’s claim over the Siachen Glacier? We explain.

Your Daily Wrap: Bihar Cabinet expansion; Karnataka minister’s audio clip row; and more
Congress slams ‘unprecedented’ release of Bilkis Bano case convicts, reminds PM of ‘Raj Dharma’
The Indian Express | 12 hours ago | 16-08-2022 | 05:50 pm
The Indian Express
12 hours ago | 16-08-2022 | 05:50 pm

AS THE 11 convicted for life in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano, and the murder of seven members of her family, during the 2002 Gujarat riots, walked out of jail on Tuesday, the Congress lashed out at the BJP government. Pointing out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken of women power in his Independence Day speech just hours before the state’s remission order came for the 11, Congress leader Pawan Khera asked at a press conference in Delhi whether the PM meant what he said.Calling the Gujarat government order “unprecedented”, the Congress said: “You let off the convicts citing the 14 years spent by them of their sentence, that their conduct in jail was good, and the nature of the crime… If we just consider the nature of the crime, does rape not come in the category that the harshest punishment be given, that any sentence is not enough? And we saw today that those who were let off, they are being felicitated and honoured. Is this Amrit Mahotsav?”Bilkis Bano case: 11 lifers convicted for Gujarat riots gangrape, murder set free in Godhra; Congress calls BJP govt order ‘unprecedented’ pic.twitter.com/b6bY503sC3— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) August 16, 2022With Tuesday marking the death anniversary of A B Vajpayee, Khera, the Chairman of the Congress’s Media and Publicity Department, said he wanted to remind Modi again of the Raj Dharma that the former PM had talked about during his visit to Gujarat after the 2002 riots.PM Modi should come forward and clarify if what he said in his Red Fort speech were just words, with no meaning.Khera added: “Does the PM not mean what he says? Or is it that his own party, its governments have stopped listening to him?… Or does he say one thing to the country and another to his own party’s government?”Khera pointed out that as recently as 2017, the Supreme Court had intervened to ensure Rs 50 lakh relief for Bilkis Bano, adding that this was proof that what had happened with her was wrong, that her family was put through torture. “How dare the PM then talk about women empowerment from the ramparts of the Red Fort?”The Congress also underlined the fact that the Gujarat order had come on the day India marked its 75th year of Independence.Linking the Bilkis Bano order of the Gujarat government to what happened in the Kathua and Unnao rape cases, Khera said all of these showed the BJP government’s “mentality”. In the Kathua case, the Congress pointed out, perhaps for the first time in the country, senior leaders of the BJP hit the streets “in the support of rapists”. “Is all of this a well-thought-out strategy,” Khera asked.The Congress leader also mentioned that while Modi’s statement in his Independence Day speech was commendable, he had earlier used words like “Rs 50 crore girlfriend”, “Congress widow”, “Jersey cow” and “Sroopanekha”, to attack rival leaders.In reply to a question, Khera said: “Either the Gujarat government should take back its order, or PM Modi should take back his words.”While the Aam Aadmi Party, which is a contender like the Congress in the Gujarat elections, was yet to speak about the remission order, other parties such as the RJD, AIMIM and CPM criticised the BJP government’s move.RJD spokesperson Ejaz Ahmad said: “PM Modi today made tall statements on Nari Samman and said one should not insult women… but hours later, the Gujarat government allowed convicts of the Bilkis Bano gangrape case to go scot-free.”AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted: “This is BJP’s version of AZADI KA AMRIT. People who are GUILTY of a heinous crime have been given freedom. BJP’s bias for a religion is such that even brutal rape & hate crimes are forgivable.”CPM tweeted its strong condmenation of the Gujarat government order. “This is the real face of New India — convicted killers and rapists released. Activist Teesta who fought for justice was jailed,” it posted.TMC spokesperson Saket Gokhale tweeted that the Gujarat government has released “all 11 monsters who were convicted of this heinous crime” against Bilkis Bano. “Where’s the outrage?”

Congress slams ‘unprecedented’ release of Bilkis Bano case convicts, reminds PM of ‘Raj Dharma’