- Rahul Gandhi pleads "not guilty" in defamation case by a RSS worker
- He was accused of linking Gauri Lankesh killing with "BJP-RSS ideology"
- "It is a battle of ideology," he told reporters after court hearing
Rahul Gandhi pleaded "not guilty" on Thursday before a Mumbai court that is hearing a defamation case filed by an RSS worker over his comments allegedly linking journalist Gauri Lankesh's killing with "BJP-RSS ideology". He was granted bail on surety of Rs 15,000.
After the hearing, the Congress leader told reporters, "I am being attacked and I am enjoying the fight."
A day after he made public his decision to resign as Congress president following the party's national election defeat, Rahul Gandhi was greeted by crowds of Congress workers waving party flags as he drove to the court.
"It is a battle of ideology. I stand with the poor, the farmers. The attacks are on. Mazaa aa raha hai (I am enjoying the fight)," the 49-year-old told reporters.
"The fight will continue. I will fight 10 times harder than in the last five years," he added.
Rahul Gandhi's decision to appear in court has been linked by many to a point that he made about an ideological battle in his open letter on Wednesday declaring that he had resigned as Congress president, a role he took on two years ago. "I personally fought the Prime Minister, the RSS and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India... At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it," he wrote.
"We will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle," he said.
The Congress leader was summoned, besides CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, by a metropolitan magistrate's court in February on a complaint filed by Dhrutiman Joshi, a lawyer and worker of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.
Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru in September 2017.
The RSS activist alleges in his 2017 lawsuit that within 24 hours of her death, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that "anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP, against the ideology of the RSS, is pressured, beaten, attacked, and even killed."
The complaint also accused Sitaram Yechury of commenting that it was the RSS' ideology and RSS people who killed the journalist.
The complaint names Rahul Gandhi, his mother and then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the CPM and its general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
The court dismissed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi and the CPI(M), saying a party cannot be held liable for comments made by individuals.
Rahul Gandhi is facing another defamation case at Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district, filed by a local RSS worker, for allegedly blaming the Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.
The Congress leader also plans to attend defamation case hearings in Patna on July 6, Surat on July 9 and Ahmedabad on July 12.