Rahul Gandhi pitches for Congress unity in Karnataka ahead of 2018 elections
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Bengaluru: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday called for unity within the party and said the Congress would avoid giving election tickets to non-performers and leaders coming from other parties for the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections.
Gandhi was looking to address growing differences among prominent party members who have been forming factions to lobby against or for a leader. The statement also served as a reminder to aspirants that ticket distribution may not be automatic and those seeking to contest would have to work hard for the party to consider their candidature.
Gandhi said he had asked K.C. Venugopal, party general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, to draw up a list of legislators working for the party and those speaking up in the assembly. “(I) have told K.C. Venugopal that whoever is standing with the people, whoever is working for Congress, whether he is leader or small workers, they should get tickets,” Gandhi said, speaking at the delegates meet of the state Congress unit.
The Karnataka Congress has been facing dissidence within its ranks in the last one year, most often from veteran leaders voicing their disapproval of chief minister Siddaramaiah’s working style. The All India Congress Committee (AICC) announced on 31 May that the Congress would go into the assembly elections in Karnataka under the leadership of Siddaramaiah, a move meant to contain the voices of dissent.
Karnataka is a key state for the Congress party, one of the few remaining under its rule. The state elections will be held only a year ahead of Lok Sabha polls and retaining power in Karnataka would bring hope for the party which was reduced to just 44 seats in the 2014 general elections.
Rahul Gandhi, along with vice-president of India Hamid Ansari and other senior leaders were in Bengaluru to launch the commemorative edition of the National Herald newspaper to mark 70 years of India’s Independence.
Hitting out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, Gandhi said Dalits, minorities, bureaucrats and even the media were getting beaten up in the country and forcing everyone into silence.
“The power of truth is being replaced by truth of power. Anybody who stands for the truth is pushed aside in different forms,” he said.
National Herald, launched by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938, would have the freedom to criticize even the Congress party, Gandhi said. The newspaper, which has been embroiled in controversy, launched its website eight months ago and is being upgraded towards full functionality later this month. Efforts to revive it have been on amid a legal battle launched by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who filed a criminal complaint against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others, alleging misappropriation of funds and other offences.
In his private criminal complaint, Swamy has accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying only Rs 50 lakh, through which Young Indian Pvt. Ltd (YI) obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore, which its publisher, Associate Journals Ltd (AJL), owed to the Congress party, PTI reported on Monday.
Hamid Ansari said that a free press is not just beneficial but also necessary in a free society in a age of “‘post-truths’ and ‘alternative facts’, where ‘advertorials’ and ‘response features’ edge-out editorials.”
“If press freedom is attacked, it will result in the jeopardising of citizen’s rights. When faced with unjust restrictions and the threat of attack, self-censorship in the media can have the opposite effect, aiding the covering up of abuses and fostering frustration in marginalized communities,” Ansari said.
He added that Constitutional framework provides for required intervention by the State to ensure smooth working of the press and the society. “The laws provide that such intervention should only be in the interest of the public at large. By the same token, the State shall not impede the free flow of information that will go a long way in protecting and promoting citizen’s rights,” he said.