Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s comments comparing India’s democracy with Iraq under dictator Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi is an insult to the 80 crore voters in the country, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said today. The only time the country faced such a situation was during the Emergency, said Mr Javadekar, without naming Mr Gandhi’s grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who had imposed it.
“Giving comment on Rahul Gandhi’s opinion is worthless. Comparing India’s democracy with Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein is an insult to the 80 crore voters. Only during the year of emergency, we witnessed a time like that of Gaddafi and Saddam,” Mr Javadekar told ANI, reacting to Mr Gandhi’s comments made during an online interaction with faculty members and students of Brown University in the US.
During the Emergency from 1975 to ’77, constitutional rights and civil liberties were suspended, the media was severely restricted and many opposition leaders were jailed.
The reference to the dictators were made by Mr Gandhi as he attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s dwindling status in global democracy metrics.
“Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi used to have elections. They used to win them. It wasn’t like they weren’t voting but there was no institutional framework to protect that vote,” the Congress leader said on Tuesday in an online interaction with Brown University professor Ashutosh Varshney, faculty and students.
“An election is not simply people going and pressing a button on a voting machine. An election is about narrative. An election is about institutions that make sure that the framework in the country is operating properly, an election is about the judiciary being fair and a debate taking place in parliament. So you need those things for a vote to count,” he said.
Mr Gandhi’s comments came days after he claimed India is “no longer” a democratic country, quoting media reports of a Sweden-based institute downgrading India to an “electoral autocracy” citing a “decline in democratic freedoms” since PM Modi took office in 2014.
The move by Sweden’s V-Dem Institute came shortly after another global report by US government-funded NGO Freedom House that downgraded India’s status from “free” to “partly free” and claimed that “political rights and civil liberties have eroded in India since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014”.
The government has strongly rebutted the Freedom House report and called it “misleading, incorrect and misplaced” while asserting that the country has well established democratic practices.