Questioning if the “rule of law” was being followed, the Congress hit out at the Narendra-Modi led BJP government on Thursday after party leader Pawan Khera was deplaned from a flight to Raipur, where he was going to attend the party’s plenary session, and detained by the Assam Police, reports Indian News Express.
Several party leaders got off the plane after Khera was deboarded and staged a dharna on the tarmac.
As drama escalated at Terminal 1 of the domestic airport in Delhi, flight staff told Congress leaders there was confusion with Khera’s bags. They said the police were on its way and would explain the reason to him.
Several Congress leaders raised slogans against the government while on the tarmac. “We are all on the @IndiGo6E flight 6E 204 to Raipur and all of a sudden my colleague @Pawankhera has been asked to deplane,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate, who was also on the flight, said on Twitter.
She added: “What sort of high handedness is this? Is there any rule of law? On what grounds is this being done and under whose order?”
While he was being taken away by the police, Khera told news agency ANI: “We will see (in which case they are taking me). It is a long battle and I am ready to fight.”
“Using a flimsy FIR to restrict his movement and silence him is a shameful, unacceptable act. The entire party stands with Pawan ji,” Congress general secretary K C Venugopal said in a tweet. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said in a Hindi tweet: “What was the emergency that the Assam Police came to Delhi and did this act? Earlier ED raids in Raipur and now such an action shows the BJP’s fury. This is condemnable.”
Jairam Ramesh, the communications in-charge of the Congress, said that “freedom of speech” was “slowly weakening in India”.
He added: “But Freedom AFTER Speech is fast becoming extinct. My colleague @Pawankhera was deplaned from a Raipur-bound flight. After ED raids, another attempt to derail Congress Plenary. Murder of Democratic India is the right acronym for Him.”
The party’s social media coordinator and Karnataka wing spokesperson, Lavanya Ballal Jain, said the move would not “deter” Pawan Khera or “stop him from continuing to be the strong voice of reason”.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) coordinator Gaurav Pandhi tweeted: “BJP has time and again used government machinery to crush the voice of Congress but has terribly failed each time. Today, they are doing the same by harassing Shri @Pawankhera but it will only make him & us all stronger.”
“The British too did the same to our leaders pre-independence,” he added.
In a Hindi tweet, the Congress’s official account said: “This is a dictatorial attitude. The dictator got ED raids done before the session and now he has come down to this kind of act.”
“Modi government is acting like a bunch of goons by deplaning @Pawankhera ji from the Delhi-Raipur flight and preventing him from joining the AICC Plenary.
On February 20, Khera referred to the Prime Minister as “Narendra Gautamdas Modi” while addressing a press conference to demand an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) over allegations made by the US-based Hindenburg Research firm against the Adani Group.
He had said: “Why are you running away from a debate in Parliament? Why are you scared of JPC? Even PV Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee set up JPC during their stints as prime ministers. What problem does Narendra ‘Gautam Das’ , ‘Damodadardas’ have with JPC? It is Damodardas right. His name is Damodardas but deeds are of ‘Gautam Das’.”
Several Congress leaders then posted tweets with the hashtag “Gautamdasmodi”.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma had said then: “Make no mistake- pathetic remarks by courtier Pawan Khera on PM’s father have blessings of the top levels of Congress, which is full of entitlement and disdain against a person of humble origins being PM. India will not forget or forgive these horrible remarks of Congressmen.”
Lashing out at Khera, Amit Malviya, the head of the BJP IT department had said: “The Congress has repeatedly targeted PM Modi for his humble origins and now they haven’t even spared his dead father, who had nothing to do with politics. Congress’s deep seated sense of entitlement and disdain for a self made man doesn’t sit well with an aspirational India.”
Congress leaders should not live in ‘misconception’ that they are above law: BJP
The BJP on Thursday hit back at the Congress for protesting police action against its spokesperson Pawan Khera, saying the opposition party’s leaders should not live in this “misconception” that they are above the law and criticised them for their agitation on the Delhi airport tarmac.
“Whatever is done is done lawfully. Congress leaders should not live under this misconception that they are above the law,” BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia told reporters.
He also took a swipe at the Congress after Khera’s lawyer conveyed to the Supreme Court his client’s unconditional apology for his alleged derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress is quick to apologise, he said, noting that its leader Rahul Gandhi had also tendered an apology to the Supreme Court over the Rafale case.
“Now its spokesperson is apologising. This is the petty politics of the Congress that it will keep abusing the prime minister even if it loses whatever little standing it may have,” Bhatia said.
The Supreme Court has given Khera interim bail till February 28 in a case related to his alleged objectionable remarks against Modi in which the Assam Police arrested him after having him deplaned at the Delhi airport amid chaotic scenes.
Bhatia accused the Congress of playing the “victim card” after “abusing” Modi and his family members.
The BJP leader said Congress leaders “flouted law” by starting protests on the Delhi airport tarmac and endangered the lives of fellow passengers. People were inconvenienced by the Congress’ protests, he said.
Bhatia also slammed Congress leaders for raising some “objectionable” slogans against Modi during their protest at the airport.
“Modi enjoys the blessings of more than 140 crore people of the country and abusing him is like digging a hole in which the Congress will fall,” Bhatia said. People will teach the Congress a lesson, he said.