Rahul Gandhi takes on Narendra Modi over 2002 riots, questions 'clean chit'

Rahul Gandhi takes on Narendra Modi over 2002 riots, questions 'clean chit'
New Delhi:  Hitting out at BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today demanded "legal accountability" for the "clear and inexcusable failure" of governance during the 2002 Gujarat riots and dismissed talk of clean chit to Mr Modi as "politically expedient" but "far too premature".

Contending that Mr Modi was answerable on moral grounds, the Congress' chief campaigner said, "beyond that there should be a legal accountability for the clear and inexcusable failure of governance under him".

Mr Gandhi was answering a question during an interview to PTI on the BJP's contention that Mr Modi had been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the courts and, therefore, he had nothing to answer for or apologise for about the post-Godhra riots.

He replied, "As you know, the SIT report had been seriously questioned by a number of credible experts.  Grave flaws have been pointed out in the functioning of the SIT. The acceptance of the flawed SIT report by the lowest court has not yet been subjected to judicial scrutiny by higher courts."

"The specific allegation and evidence pointing to Mr Modi's responsibility in the 2002 riots are yet to be adequately probed.  Any talk of his having been given a clean chit may be politically expedient, but is far too premature. There are many unanswered questions.  There is a lot more the country needs to know," he said.

Mr Gandhi said he did not see Lok Sabha elections as virtually a presidential-style contest between him and Mr Modi.

He contended that the Congress represented an idea which "respects the liberty and dignity of every one of our countrymen by upholding the ideals of humanity and inclusion", whereas the BJP wanted an India "in which there is no place for the poor, no place for those with a different religion or ideology."

The Congress leader said that the BJP seeks to "suppress large numbers of India's ideas" and wanted "an India in which power is centralised in the hands of individuals.  It is a clash between these two ideas of India."

The Congress vice president added, "The ideas that Mr Modi represents are dangerous for India."

To a question that people appeared to be disappointed with the lacklustre performance of the UPA government and favoured a strong leader like Mr Modi, he said, "yes, I believe that India needs a 'strong' leader but we must have a deeper understanding of what 'strength' means.

"Strength to me, is not brute force or the ability to bulldoze your way through decision making in an autocratic manner....I do believe that an autocratic mindset that believes in dispensing with whatever is inconvenient to its notions is dangerous because such people tend to disregard what is right for what is expedient."

Asked about Mr Modi's campaign and his language such as him being called a "shezada" (prince), Mr Gandhi said that as far as the language used by political leaders was concerned "it is for the people of the country to judge a politician's language and choice of words".

Lashing out at the BJP for its record in dealing with corruption, the Congress leader said that the BJP had a Karnataka Chief Minister who went to jail on charges of corruption and that convicted and charge-sheeted ministers continued to be in the Gujarat cabinet.

"Their (BJP's) national president was seen taking money and was convicted.  The record of the Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh governments on corruption is well known.  The money and land scams in Karnataka, absence of a functional Lokayukta in Gujarat for over 10 years, the recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh, and the allotment of land to industry in a completely non-transparent manner--the record is there for all to see," he said.

Asked if he had any radical ideas to eradicate corruption, the Congress leader said that the way to do that was to speed up the judicial process and punish the guilty.

He said that Lokpal Bill and The Whistleblowers Protection Bill had been passed and there were five remaining legislations that would have completed this framework.

"Since the BJP took the lead in preventing their passage, I would like to ask them to explain their doublespeak.  They manage to lament corruption and at the same time oppose bills that will fight it," Mr Gandhi said.

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