Congress leader Rahul Gandhi renewed his criticism of the government over the China border row today, alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued to lie and deceive the nation. Speaking at a meeting of Congress MPs, Mr Gandhi said his party would not support anything that weakened national security or borders.
Mr Gandhi also targeted the government over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, pointing out that when states and union territories needed help to control the spread of the infectious virus the government had simply walked away.
"The Prime Minister continues to lie about China, saying it is not a political issue. But the Congress can't be party of anything that weakens India and we have to be firm in our stand - national security is ensuring our position and boundaries cannot be weakened," he said.
Mr Gandhi has been tweeting regularly, often more than once a day, since China killed 20 Indian soldiers in a violent face-off in eastern Ladakh last month. He earlier claimed the Prime Minister had "surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression".
The Congress has also repeatedly flagged concerns over Chinese intrusion, particularly since the Prime Minister was quoted as saying: "Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of post captured".
Following military talks there has been mutual disengagement and the forces have pulled back from several areas along the LAC in Ladakh, including those where violence broke out in May and June.
In his extensive speech Mr Gandhi also criticised the government over foreign policy decisions and said "things are in such shambles that even our friends are turning against us", in a reference to a border dispute with Nepal.
Mr Gandhi also referred to the contentious PM CARES Fund, which was set up to tackle the novel coronavirus crisis but remains outside the auditing purview of the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India).
He claimed that Chinese military companies had contributed to the fund, raking up an ongoing battle between the Congress and the BJP over funding from China.
The BJP had earlier said the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation had received money from the Chinese embassy in Delhi. Congress leader P Chidambaram had pointed out that funds had been compliant with FCRA laws and questioned the connection between a grant 15 years ago and Chinese aggression in 2020.
The Congress then hit back by pointing out that Chinese companies, including developers of mobile phone apps that had been banned by the government over national security concerns, had donated to the PM CARES Fund.
Congress MPs present at today's meeting, which was chaired by interim chief Sonia Gandhi, also urged Mr Gandhi to return as leader of the party; Mr Gandhi had stepped down in July last year after poor results in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Mr Gandhi has displayed leadership qualities in taking on the centre over China and COVID-19, Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor said.
K Suresh and AK Antony from Kerala, Manickam Tagore from Tamil Nadu and Assam's Gaurav Gogoi were among the others who urged Mr Gandhi to return as Congress President.