New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday hit the streets in the capital along with leaders of his party and its allies on the Rafale issue demanding “reinstatement” of CBI Director Alok Verma and courted arrest after dubbing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “chor” (thief).
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finishing every institution of the country because he wants to hide the corruption in the Rafale deal. He is attacking the CBI, Election Commission and other institutions. Chowkidar chor hai (Watchman is a thief),” he said in a brief address to a crowd of Congress workers outside the CBI headquarters in Lodhi Road area in south Delhi.
Linking the government’s action of divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his powers, duties and functions with the controversy over the Rafale contract, the Congress President alleged that the Prime Minister had benefited a businessman to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore through this deal.
“The Congress will not allow the ‘chowkidar’ to commit this theft. The opposition parties will not allow the ‘chowkidar’ to commit the theft,” Gandhi said amidst frenzied slogan shouting by party supporters.
Standing atop a truck, Gandhi shouted “chowkidhar chor hai”. The crowd roared as it repeated the slogan in unison before courting arrest.
Gandhi was leading a noisy protest over the government’s action in CBI. He was flanked by party leaders Bhupinder Hooda, Ahmed Patel, Ashok Ghelot and Randeep Singh Surjewala as well as opposition leaders Nadimul Haque (Trinamool Congress), D. Raja (CPI) and Sharad Yadav (Loktantrik Janata Dal).
Later, Gandhi and other leaders were taken to the Lodhi Colony police station in a police bus and Surjewala tweeted that Gandhi and other leaders have been arrested.
“Rahul Gandhi’s arrest by an autocratic Modi government won’t deter or cow down millions of Congress workers from exposing the dismantling of the CBI to hide the Rafale scam,” he said.
Ghelot said the Congress was staging protests outside CBI offices throughout the country with the demand that Alok Verma be reinstated.
“We want the reinstatement of Alok Verma. He can be transferred only by the collegium of Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition. The Prime Minister should tender an apology to the nation for destroying the image of CBI.”
Later, the leaders were let off. Gandhi told reporters outside the police station that Modi put Rs 30,000 crore in the “pocket” of industrialist Anil Ambani.
“The Prime Minister can run and run but cannot hide from truth. The truth will come out. The Prime Minister acted out of fear and panic (on the issue). The Prime Minister cannot give a rupee in waiver for farmers. Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Lalit Modi all fled. Anil Ambani will also flee.
“The reality is that the Prime Minister has indulged in corruption. Chowkidhar chor hai,” he roared.
Earlier, Gandhi led a short march from Dayal Singh College to the CBI headquarters along with opposition leaders.
Hundreds of Congress activists took part in the protest, shouting slogans against Modi.
In a dramatic midnight action, the government on Tuesday divested CBI chief Verma of his charge and made Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao the interim director.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) took the decision as the war between Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana escalated over bribery allegations hurled at each other.
Asthana was also divested of all supervisory charges on Tuesday.