Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president who has messaged that his decision to step down was final, underlined that he would keep up his fight against the ruling BJP and its ideology. “I will fight 10 times harder,” Gandhi told reporters outside a Mumbai court.
The court appearance to face a defamation charge filed over his attack on the BJP and its ideological parent was Rahul Gandhi’s first after he put out a four-page statement on Twitter this week.
Gandhi had conveyed his decision to resign from the Congress’s top post to the party’s top decision-making body but many of the party’s top leaders had hoped that he could be persuaded to withdraw. Gandhi’s statement on Thursday was designed to signal that his mind was made. Sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra showered praise on him for the decision, “Few have the courage that you do… Deepest respect for your decision,” she tweeted.
There was a group of Congress workers who had collected outside the Sewri court complex in central Mumbai too to urge him to not resign. Over 200 Congress leaders have also sent across their resignations over the last few weeks. One more, Congress general secretary Harish Rawat, took to social media on Thursday to declare that he was also taking responsibility for the party’s humiliating defeat and resigning.
On such calls, Gandhi said he had nothing more to say: “I have said whatever I had to in a note written yesterday”. In this, Gandhi had stressed that accountability was critical to rebuilding the party and “it would be unjust to hold others accountable, but ignore my own responsibility as President of the party,” But he had also underscored that his exit from the party’s top post did not imply that his many attacks on the RSS and the ruling BJP would stop.
Outside the Mumbai Court on Thursday, he made a similar point.
Lawyer and RSS worker Dhrutiman Joshi had sued Rahul Gandhi, mother Sonia Gandhi and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechuri for allegedly linking journalist Gauri Lankesh’s death to the RSS. The lawyer had objected to Rahul Gandhi’s reported statement in 2017 that “anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP and the RSS, is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed.” Yechury too had allegedly linked RSS and its ideology for the killing.
This, Gandhi indicated to reporters on Thursday, was a battle of ideology.
“I said nothing in court, I just had to appear in court. This is a fight of ideology. I am on the side of the poor and farmers. I am being attacked, but enjoying it,” he said. Asked if he was going to withdraw from the fight in view of his resignation, Rahul Gandhi said: “The battle will be fought harder, ten times harder than the fight I fought for the last five years (against Modi and his government)”.
In his 4-page note, Gandhi had also pointed to this battle that he had fought to take a sharp dig at his party colleagues for the electoral drubbing the Congress received, saying he had stood completely alone in the fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
“I personally fought the Prime Minister, the RSS and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India. And I fought to defend the ideals India was built upon. At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it,” he wrote. “I have learned so much from the spirit and dedication of our workers and party members, men and women who have taught me about love and decency,” he added.
At the fractious May 25 meeting, Gandhi slammed the veterans for “placing the interests” of their sons above the party. He also mentioned that some leaders had even lost the election from their strongholds even as he criticised a section of the so-called GenNext for hankering for posts.