New Delhi [India], March 25 (ANI): Congress general secretary KC Venugopal on Friday thanked like-minded political parties for coming in support of Congress on the issue of Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha and said the unity of opposition parties must go further against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre.
"We are grateful to all like-minded political parties who came forward and supported us in this issue. I feel now, Congress is also realising that this unity of the opposition parties must go further or else this dictatorship government will ruin the country," Venugopal told mediapersons here.
Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after his conviction by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case, triggered a massive political row with the BJP stating that the Congress leader was "a habitual loose cannon" and the Congress alleging that he was got "deliberately disqualified".
Opposition leaders slammed the government after the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha and the Congress said it will launch a people's moment on the issue.
While Congress leaders including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and party chief Mallikarjun Kharge rallied behind Rahul Gandhi, opposition leaders including Mamata Banerjee, K Chandrashekar Rao, MK Stalin, Hemant Soren, Arvind Kejiwal, Sharad Yadav, Uddhav Thackeray and Akhilesh Yadav attacked the BJP-led government.
Congress welcomed the support of opposition leaders and said the task of building opposition unity should be taken up in a systematic way. It expressed confidence of legal relief in the case. The party held a meeting in the evening, which was attended by party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi, to chalk out the next course of action.
Leaders of Left parties, Janata Dal-Secular also attacked the government. Some of them called it a "black day" for Indian democracy.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, who held a joint press conference with Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, alleged that Rahul Gandhi considers himself above parliament, government, judicial system and country.
He said Rahul should probe "conspiracy" within Congress to oust him.Thakur said Rahul Gandhi is on bail in seven cases and had rendered apology in the past.
Attacking the Modi government, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said those who want to "destroy the nation" should stay in the BJP while those who want to "save the nation" from ruin must leave.
"Never before in the history of India was there a PM, who is just a 12th pass. He can't run the country and lets his ego guide his actions. I urge all BJP leaders to consider leaving the party as the country is being destroyed under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those who want the nation destroyed can stay with the BJP while those who want to save it from ruin must leave," Kejriwal said.
"Now the people of the country will have to come forward and fight this undemocratic regime. If we want to save the country, 130 crore Indians will have to come forward and lead the fight. It does not matter which party comes to power. What is of concern is the way our democracy is being tarnished and attacked," he added.
Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that Opposition leaders are being disqualified over speeches and BJP leaders with "criminal antecedents" were being made ministers.
"In PM Modi's New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of the BJP! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches. Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy," she said in a tweet.
Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, said it was black day in the history of Indian democracy.
"Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Parliament is the height of Narendra Modi's arrogance and dictatorship. This is not the time for conflicts between parties. All democrats should openly condemn the misdeeds of the BJP government to safeguard the democracy and constitutional values of the country," he said.
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, who has kept his distance from Congress after their failed tie-up in 2017 assembly polls, also slammed the government.
"The political challenge does not end with the hijacking of one's membership of Parliament. The biggest movement is not the one in Parliament. We have to win this fight on the streets. The person who moved court claiming defamation should level a similar charge at people, who betrayed their country and fled abroad," Akhilesh Yadav tweeted in Hindi.
DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin called for an urgent relook at the action taken against Rahul Gandhi.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the decision to disqualify Rahul was taken in "haste" and is "yet another episode in BJP's authoritarian rampage against Indian democracy"."This brazen assault is an insult to our democratic values and can't be overlooked. It must be unequivocally denounced," Vijayan tweeted.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar said opposition leaders need to stand together to defend our democratic institutions.
"Our constitution guarantees the right of each individual to fair justice; liberty of thought; equality of status and opportunity and fraternity assuring the dignity of each Indian. The disqualifications of Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mr Faizal a few months ago as MPs of the Lok Sabha are against the basic tenets of the constitution, where democratic values are being curtailed.
This is condemnable and against the very principles on which the constitution is based. We all need to stand together to defend our democratic institutions," he said in a tweet.
Uddhav Thackeray said it was a "murder of democracy".
"Rahul Gandhi's candidacy has been cancelled. Calling a thief, a thief has become a crime in our country. Thieveslooters are still free and Rahul Gandhi was punished. This is a direct murder of democracy. All govt systems are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of the dictatorship. Only the fight has to be given direction," he said.
Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that BJP has been trying to get Rahul Gandhi disqualified."They (BJP) tried every trick in the book to disqualify him. They don't want MPs who speak the truth. But we will continue to stand for the truth. We'll continue to demand a JPC (in the Hindenburg-Adani row) and will even go to jail to save democracy." (ANI)