New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that he ‘did not imagine’ his disqualification from Lok Sabha was possible when he joined politics. Gandhi, who is in the US for a three-city tour, however, asserted that his disqualification as a Member of Parliament has given him a ‘huge opportunity’ to serve the people. The Wayanad (Kerala) MP was disqualified earlier this year after he was convicted by a Gujarat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark.
While responding to a series of questions from Indian students at the Stanford University Campus in California, Rahul Gandhi said that when he joined politics in 2000, he never imagined this is what he would go through. What he sees is going on now is way outside anything that he had thought when he joined politics, the former Congress chief said.
“But then I think it’s actually given me a huge opportunity. Probably much bigger than the opportunity I would have. That’s just the way politics works,” Rahul Gandhi said.
A Surat court in Gujarat convicted the four-time MP in a criminal defamation case on March 23 and sentenced him to two years in jail. The two-year jail term triggered his disqualification as a Lok Sabha member from the date of the verdict. Gandhi, however, was granted bail to allow him to appeal to a higher court.
His disqualification from the Lok Sabha will bar him from contesting polls for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction.
Meanwhile, during his interaction with Indian students and academicians of Indian origin at Stanford University, he emphasised that he is not seeking support from anybody during his frequent foreign trips like this.
“I don’t understand why the prime minister (Narendra Modi) doesn’t come here and do it,” Gandhi asked the audience, to which the moderator said that the PM is welcome to come to Stanford anytime and interact with the students and academicians.
The former Congress president also spoke about his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, which began from Kanyakumari on September 7 last year and passed through 12 states before culminating in Jammu and Kashmir in January, and said that he began it as the entire opposition in India is ‘struggling’ and that they are struggling to fight the ‘democratic fight’ in the country.
India, China relationship is going to be ‘tough’
During his interaction, Rahul Gandhi also asserted that India cannot be pushed around by China as he underlined that the relationship between the two neighbours is going to be ‘tough’ and not an easy one.
“How do you see the India-China relationship evolving in the next 5-10 years?” Gandhi was asked, to which he replied, “It’s tough right now. I mean, they’ve occupied some of our territory. It’s rough. It’s not too easy (a relationship).”
“India cannot be pushed around. That something is not going to happen,” he added.
India and China are also locked in a lingering border standoff in eastern Ladakh for three years. The bilateral relationship came under severe strain following the deadly clash in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June 2020.
Would have ‘similar stance’ as Modi Govt on Russia-Ukraine war
Rahul Gandhi also supported the Narendra Modi-led government’s ‘neutral stance’ on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, despite the pressure it feels from the West, and said that India ‘has to look for its own interest’ at the end of the day.
“We have a relationship with Russia, we have certain dependencies on Russia. So, I would have a similar stance as the Government of India,” Rahul Gandhi said in response to a question when asked does he supports India’s neutral stance on Russia.
He added that India is a big enough country whereby it generally will have relationships with other countries. It’s not so small and dependent that it will have a relationship with one and nobody else, he said.
“We will always have these types of relationships. We will have better relationships with some people, evolving relationships with other people. So that balance is there,” Rahul said.
It is noteworthy that India has abstained from the UN resolutions on Ukraine and consistently underlined the need to respect the UN Charter, international law, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.
India, however, has also consistently underlined that in the ongoing conflict, the entire Global South has suffered ‘substantial collateral damage’ and that the developing countries are facing the brunt of the conflict’s consequences on food, fuel, and fertilizer supplies.
He also supported a strong relationship between India and the United States and underscored the importance of manufacturing and both countries collaborating in emerging fields like data and artificial intelligence.
Simply focusing on the security and defence aspect of this bilateral relationship is not enough, Gandhi said.