Amid growing concerns over the state of Indian democracy, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed journalists at the National Press Club in Washington. Gandhi emphasized that India’s democracy is a global public good, and its collapse would have severe ramifications for the rest of the world. He noted that it is the responsibility of Indians to safeguard their democracy but added that the international community should also play a role in preventing its collapse. During the one-hour-long interaction, he addressed various issues ranging from India’s position on the Russia-Ukraine war, the BJP’s politics of hate, and the effort to build a united opposition before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi asserted that a united opposition would defeat the BJP on its own. He also expressed confidence that the BJP would be decimated in the next three or four Assembly elections. When asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming state visit to the United States, Gandhi declined to prejudge the matter, but emphasized the importance of the relationship between the two countries.
With regards to the Congress’s stance on India’s relationship with Russia, Gandhi made it clear that his party’s position would be very similar to the BJP. He reiterated that it was his party’s responsibility to fight the battle for democracy in India and to prevent a slide into authoritarianism. “Indian democracy is a global public good,” he said, “because India is large enough that a collapse in democracy in India will affect…will have an impact on the world.”
On countering the BJP’s propaganda going into the 2024 Lok Sabha poll, Gandhi admitted that his party had been struggling before but insisted that the Bharat Jodo Yatra had completely changed the narrative. He claimed that the BJP had done everything to stop the yatra from succeeding but that he resonated with the people, even those from the BJP, adding that he had received positive comments from a BJP spokesperson.
Addressing his recent disqualification as an MP, Gandhi claimed that it came days after he criticized the Adani Group. However, he reiterated that it was a “gift” to serve the people and that the Congress was committed to fighting the battle for democracy in India.
The interaction between Gandhi and the journalists led to sparring between Congress and BJP, with the ruling party accusing Gandhi of calling M.A. Jinnah’s Muslim League a secular party. However, the Congress hit back by accusing the BJP of peddling fake news and clarifying that their leader’s comment was about the Indian Union Muslim League, their ally in Kerala.
At a dinner meet hosted by Indian-American businessman Frank Islam, Gandhi expressed his confidence that the next three or four elections that the Congress would fight directly with the BJP would see the ruling party decimated. He noted that while the BJP has the instruments of noise, the majority of the Indian population does not support them.
Gandhi’s remarks underline the importance of Indian democracy not only for Indians but for the rest of the world. He emphasizes the need to fight the battle for democracy, prevent a slide into authoritarianism, and build a united opposition to defeat the BJP in future elections. Despite the BJP’s propaganda, Gandhi claims confidence in the Congress’s ability to resonate with the people and ultimately triumph at the ballot box.