The Congress, led by its President Rahul Gandhi, on Friday hit the streets across the country over the government’s move to divest the powers of CBI Director Alok Verma, slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a chowkidar who turned out to be a “thief”, saying he can run, but cannot hide from truth in the Rafale deal.
In a massive protest joined by opposition leaders such as TMC’s Rajya Sabha member Nadimul Haque, the CPI’s D Raja and the Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav, the Congress leaders courted arrest.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finishing every institution of the country because he wants to hide corruption in the Rafale deal. He is attacking the CBI, Election Commission and other institutions. Chowkidar chor hai (watchman is a thief),” he said in a brief address to a crowd of Congress workers outside the CBI headquarters in Lodhi Road area in south Delhi.
Linking the government’s action of divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his powers, duties and functions with the controversy over the Rafale contract, the Congress President alleged the Prime Minister had benefited a businessman to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore through this deal.
“The Congress will not allow the ‘chowkidar’ to commit this theft. The opposition parties will not allow the ‘chowkidar’ to commit the theft,” Gandhi said amidst frenzied slogan-shouting by party supporters.
Standing atop a truck, Gandhi shouted “chowkidhar chor hai”. The crowd roared as it repeated the slogan in unison before courting arrest.
Gandhi was leading a noisy protest over the government’s action in CBI. He was flanked by party leaders Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Ahmed Patel, Ashok Ghelot and Randeep Singh Surjewala as well as opposition leaders Nadimul Haque (Trinamool Congress), D. Raja (CPI) and Sharad Yadav (Loktantrik Janata Dal).
Later, Gandhi and other leaders were taken to the Lodhi Colony police station in a police bus. Surjewala tweeted that Gandhi and others have been arrested.
“Rahul Gandhi’s arrest by an autocratic Modi government won’t deter or cow millions of Congress workers from exposing the dismantling of the CBI to hide the Rafale scam,” he said.
Ghelot said the Congress was staging protests outside CBI offices throughout the country with the demand that Alok Verma be reinstated.
“We want the reinstatement of Alok Verma. He can be transferred only by the collegium of Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition. The Prime Minister should tender an apology to the nation for destroying the image of CBI.”
Later, the leaders were let off. Gandhi told reporters outside the police station that Modi put Rs 30,000 crore in the “pocket” of industrialist Anil Ambani.
“The Prime Minister can run and run but cannot hide from truth. The truth will come out. The Prime Minister acted out of fear and panic (on the issue). The Prime Minister cannot give a rupee in waiver for farmers. Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Lalit Modi all fled. Anil Ambani will also flee.
“The reality is that the Prime Minister has indulged in corruption. Chowkidhar chor hai,” he roared.
Earlier, Gandhi led a short march from Dayal Singh College to the CBI headquarters along with opposition leaders.
Hundreds of Congress activists took part in the protest, shouting slogans against Modi.
The Congress leaders in various states staged protest outside CBI offices.
In Mumbai, thousands of Congress activists staged a noisy protest outside the CBI office in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), shouting anti-government slogans.
Led by party chief Sanjay Nirupam, senior leaders including several former Ministers and ex-MPs like Eknath Gaikwad and Priya Dutt and thousands of workers joined the demonstrations carrying placards and banners with anti-BJP slogans.
“We are opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s disgraceful and unconstitutional attempt to block the investigations into the Rafale scam by removing the CBI Director Alok Verma,” Nirupam said.
Besides Mumbai, the Maharashtra Congress also organised similar demonstrations in Pune and Nagpur outside the CBI offices there as part of nationwide protests.
In Jaipur, the Congress protested under the leadership of state President Sachin Pilot. “The Prime Minister’s act of removing CBI Director and sending him on leave in the midnight to save his own skin is an unconstitutional act,” he said.
In Chandigarh, Congress leaders protested under the leadership of state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and state in-charge Asha Kumari while in Tripura, Congress workers led by AICC serectary Bhupen Kumar Borah and state party chief Birajit Sinha gheraoed the CBI office in Agartala. CPI-M members also organised separate protest rallies in different parts of Tripura.
In Bengaluru, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the recent events related to CBI were another manifestation of the Prime Minister’s autocratic rule. “The BJP feels that they are entitled to destroy the democratic pillars. People are clueless about the lawlessness, have lost faith and confidence in the system,” he said.