Press freedom under threat, clampdown on the institutional framework in India: Rahul Gandhi


Congress leader Rahul Gandhi while speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on June 1, said that press freedom is under threat in India and that it’s there for the world to see.

He added that a nation’s independent institutions should not be pressurized by anyone. While saying that there’s a lot of angst among the people, he predicted that Congress will perform well in elections during the next two years and that the “outcome will surprise people”.

During a conversation with scribes in the US capital, Gandhi said that press freedom is very critical for a functional democracy and one should be open to criticism. Gandhi is in the US on a week-long tour during which he is scheduled to meet the Indian diaspora, academics, students, entrepreneurs and think tanks. He landed in San Francisco on May 30, and presently is visiting Washington, DC, and will be visiting New York on June 4.

“There is a weakening of press freedom in India. It is apparent in India and the rest of the world can see it too. Press freedom is very critical for a democracy. One should be open to criticism. There is a clampdown on the institutional framework that allowed India to talk and Indian people to negotiate. I view India as a negotiation between its people, between different cultures, languages, and histories. Mahatma Gandhi set up the framework to enable that negotiation fairly and freely. That structure, which allows this negotiation, is coming under pressure. Press freedom is crucial for a democratic society,” he said.

Talking about his Bharat Jodo Yatra when he walked across the country, he said that he witnessed angst among the masses. “I walked across India, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and spoke directly to millions of Indian people. They didn’t seem happy to me; there were serious issues with rising unemployment and inflation. There is angst among the people,” he said.

He hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party he said that the saffron brigade was promoting a polarizing vision in the country which was damaging India. Replying to a question about the opposition parties in India, Gandhi said that they are united and were having dialogues with all the opposition. “The opposition is pretty well united, and it’s getting more and more united. We are having conversations with all the opposition parties. I think quite a lot of good work is happening there. It’s a complicated discussion because there are spaces where we are competing with the opposition. A bit of give and take is required. But I am confident that it (a grand Opposition alliance against the BJP at the Centre) will happen,” Rahul said.

While speaking about the parliamentary polls scheduled to be held next year, he added that a united opposition can defeat the BJP in the 2024 general elections, and the outcome will surprise people. He added that it is a hidden feeling that the Congress party will perform very well within the next two years and the outcome will surprise the people. Pointing at the emphatic victory over BJP registered by Congress in the Karnataka assembly elections, he predicted a similar outcome in the upcoming state elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. Gandhi said Karnataka was just a trailer of what was coming next.

Gandhi’s criticisms have drawn sharp reactions from the BJP which has accused the Congress leader of insulting the country on foreign soil. Gandhi landed in the US on May 30 as a part of his three-city tour of the country. He is scheduled to end his tour by addressing a public gathering in New York on June 4.



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