New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday accused the BJP-led government of unleashing its “divisive agenda by generating a wholly unwarranted debate on patriotism and nationalism” and said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that parliament functions.
Gandhi’s strong attack on the government came at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) here ahead of the budget session of parliament that begins on Tuesday.
The party issued a statement after the meeting, saying educational institutions “have not only been a target but high priority in the RSS’s nefarious agenda to impose their ideology in the universities and colleges”.
The Congress accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Haryana of “totally mishandling” the situation arising out of the agitation by the Jats for quota and the central government of “murder” of the Constitution in Arunachal Pradesh.
It said the party will raise these issues in parliament in cooperation with other like-minded parties.
Gandhi said the Congress wants parliament to function but the government refuses to accept the democratic right of the Opposition to raise burning public issues.
Making a veiled reference to the controversies surrounding Jawaharlal Nehru University, the suicide of a Dalit youth in Hyderabad University and the violence in a Delhi court ahead of proceedings concerning JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Gandhi said the CWC meeting took place in the “most disturbing circumstances that are causing grave disquiet across the country”.
“The ruling establishment seems to have lost all sense of balance, and of proportion. It appears determined to undermine all democratic norms. It seems hell-bent to destroy the spirit of inquiry, the spirit of questioning, the spirit of debate and dissent” Gandhi said.
She alleged that the government had “muzzled” the party’s voice in the Lok Sabha and then “it silenced civil society activists and organisations”.
“Now is the turn of universities. Universities are places where young people must have the fullest freedom to express themselves,” she said.
Gandhi said social justice was being demeaned by “callousness to victims of caste discrimination” and the foundations of communal harmony were being systematically eroded.
“Professional organisations are becoming the mouthpiece of those in power. Courts are being turned into ‘akharas’ (wrestling arenas),” she said.
Gandhi alleged that no action has been taken against blatant corruption in BJP-ruled states “for which there is clear evidence”.
“The economy is just not picking up regardless of the government’s tall claims. Farmers and rural labour are in a deep crisis. Prices of essential commodities are placing an intolerable burden on crores of families,” she said.
She said social sector spending was being squeezed.
“To cover up its many failures, the ruling establishment has once again unleashed its divisive agenda by generating a wholly unwarranted debate on patriotism and nationalism.
“Democratic and liberal values are under severe assault. The freedom to think and speak are being drastically curtailed.”
In its statement, the party said disturbing developments have taken place in recent months and “these have been engineered by the BJP, RSS and affiliated organisations”.
It said a totally manufactured debate on patriotism and nationalism was being generated through manipulated news clips to “cover up the government’s failures and its heavy-handedness in dealing with student protesters”.
The statement said the fabric of communal harmony “is being systematically eroded”.
It said the language used by BJP leaders was objectionable and “an organisation that never took part in the freedom movement” is hardly in a position to hand out certificates of patriotism and nationalism.
The statement also said the government has “miserably failed” to ensure that parliament functions normally.