Furore over German interference

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Furore over German interference

Friday, 31 March 2023 | Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

Furore over German interference

Days after the US remarked it was “watching” legal proceedings regarding Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Germany on Thursday said “fundamental democratic principles” should apply in his case. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, an MP from Wayanad, Kerala was disqualified last week as a Member of Lok Sabha (MP) from the date of his conviction in the criminal defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark.

Enunciating her country’s position, spokesperson of the German Foreign Ministry said, “We have taken note of the verdict of first instance against the Indian Opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as well as the suspension of his parliamentary mandate. To our knowledge, Mr Gandhi is in a position to appeal the verdict.”

She also said, “It will then become clear whether this verdict will stand and whether the suspension of his mandate has any basis.”  The spokesperson said Germany expects that “standards of judicial independence and fundamental democratic principles” will apply in the case.

This statement by Germany sparked a political slugfest in the country with the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress exchanging sharp remarks on the issue.

Responding to Germany’s remarks, the Congress said it firmly believes that India’s democratic processes themselves have to deal with the threats posed to its democracy. It also hit out at the BJP, accusing it of attempting to divert attention from the Adani issue.

In a smart rejoinder to Germany’s remarks, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said India will not tolerate foreign interference in internal matters.

“Thank you Rahul Gandhi for inviting foreign powers for interference into India’s internal matters. Remember, the Indian Judiciary can’t be influenced by foreign interference.  India won’t tolerate ‘foreign influence’ anymore because our Prime Minister is Shri Narendra Modi Ji (sic),” Rijiju said in a tweet.

Earlier this week, the US said it is watching the Rahul Gandhi case and they continue to engage with the Indian Government on a shared commitment to democratic values, including freedom of expression.

 “Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we’re watching Mr Gandhi’s (Rahul Gandhi) case in Indian courts,” US Department of State Principal Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

 On Thursday, the BJP slammed Congress Rajya Sabha member Digvijay Singh for thanking  Germany for taking note of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha and charged the Opposition party with  “inviting foreign powers for interference into India’s internal matters”.

The ruling party described Singh and his party as a "disgrace to the nation". The BJP leaders reacted after he thanked the German Foreign Ministry and Richard Walker, Chief International Editor of Deutsche Welle, for "taking note of how Democracy is being compromised in India through the persecution of Rahul Gandhi".

Attacking the Congress over Singh's tweet, Information and Broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said, "disgrace to nation, @INCIndia & @RahulGandhi don't believe to fight India's democratic, political and legal battle within country, hence, invite foreign powers to interfere in our internal matter. But New India headed by @narendramodi Ji will not tolerate any foreign intervention."Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman also slammed the Congress over Singh's tweet.

"Apparent that @INCIndia wants foreign interference in our affairs. Sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Communist Party of China with opaque contents. During interactions abroad, plead for help to change government. Thank them when help forthcoming. Any more proof needed?" she said.

Appearing to be in damage control mode, the Congress said it firmly believes that India's democratic processes themselves have to deal with the threats posed to its democracy. It also hit out at the BJP, accusing it of attempting to divert attention from the Adani issue.

Without taking names, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said on Twitter,"@INCIndia firmly believes that India's democratic processes themselves have to deal with the threats posed to our democracy by Mr. Modi's assault on our institutions & his politics of vendetta, intimidation, threats & harassment."

 The Congress and Opposition parties will take him on fearlessly, Ramesh said. Attacking Rijiju for his comments, Congress' media department head Pawan Khera said, "Mr. Rijiju, why divert from the main issue?

The issue is that the Prime Minister cannot answer Rahul Gandhi's questions about Adani." Instead of "misleading" people, please answer the questions, Khera said.

Earlier, tagging Singh's tweet, BJP's foreign affairs department head leader Vijay Chauthaiwale said on Twitter, "Look how happy @digvijaya_28 ji with comments from Germany.

It only shows how they are desperate to involve external agencies in domestic matters." BJP's IT department head Amit Malviya also tagged Singh's tweet and said, "Shameful that Congress continues to lean on foreign agencies and seek their intervention in India's internal affairs."

"Rahul Gandhi had recently sought Europe and US intervention and now it is Digvijay Singh. But Law is the Law… Unless somebody thinks Law is not the Law for them," he said.

The BJP tweeted, "Let this be on record. For the first time in Independent India's history, Congress leaders are pleading foreign powers to intervene in India's democratic process and weigh in on our judicial decisions… It is a brazen attempt to undermine people's will and India's sovereignty." Rahul was disqualified from Lok Sabha on March 23 after a court in Gujarat's Surat convicted him in a 2019 defamation case over his 'Modi surname' remark.

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