BJP leader and Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri hit out at Rahul Gandhi on Monday, saying the Congress leader should look at his party's history before speaking on democratic values as it has been "a death chamber of dissent, right to expression and internal democracy". The "headless party" is in the midst of a "civil war" and anyone who dissents is shown the door, Puri alleged.
His fierce attack on Gandhi in a series of tweets comes in the middle of an intense war of words between the Congress and the BJP over the Facebook row. Following a report in the Wall Street Journal that Facebook ignored applying its hate speech rules to some BJP politicians, the Congress demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the charges, saying they threaten the foundation of Indian democracy and need to be investigated.
Gandhi has accused the BJP and the RSS of spreading "fake news" using Facebook and WhatsApp to influence the electorate, triggering a sharp counter-attack from Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who reminded the opposition party of the Cambridge Analytica issue. In his all-out attack, Puri said there is something "surreal" about the "now on now off" leader of a political party which has not been able to muster 100 seats in the last two general elections put together, deciding to sermonise on democratic values and norms.
"Irony just died laughing. Before issuing statements on freedom of expression, democratic values and ethos of secular coexistence, a little looking back at last 70 yrs would've helped Rahul Gandhi. His party has been a death chamber of dissent, right to expression and internal democracy," he added. The latest example, he said, is suspended Congress member Sanjay Jha's claim that around 100 Congress leaders, "distressed" at the state of affairs within the party, have written a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, asking for change in political leadership and transparent Congress Working Committee elections.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, however, rejected Jha's claim, saying this is a non-existent letter and such misinformation is aimed at diverting attention from "Facebook-BJP links". In his attack on Gandhi, Puri said he should look at the record of the government led by his party during the Emergency years of 1975-77 when every democratic institution was "declared defunct and one leader's voice was regarded as law" before sermonising.
He also cited his books to say that he had been writing about the "existential crisis" the opposition party has come to face.