Rahul accuses BJP of 'wholesale capture' of country's institutional framework

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New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged on Friday that a 'wholesale capture' of India's institutional framework by the ruling dispensation has changed the paradigm in which opposition parties operate post-2014 as the institutions that are supposed to support a fair political fight do not do so anymore.

In a conversation with Harvard University professor and former US Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, Gandhi said in order to fight elections, there is a need for institutional structures, protection by the judicial system, a reasonably free media, financial parity and a set of institutional structures that allow his party to operate as a political party, but all this is not there.

'In Assam, the gentleman who is running our campaign (for the Assembly polls) has been sending me videos of BJP candidates running around with voting machines in their cars,' the former Congress chief said.

'He is screaming at the top his voice saying look, I have got a really serious problem here. But there is nothing going on in the national media,' he added.

There is a 'wholesale capture' of the country's institutional framework, Gandhi alleged.

He claimed that there is absolute financial and media dominance by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

'It is not just the Congress, the BSP is not winning an election, the SP is not winning an election, the NCP is not winning an election. To fight elections, I need institutional structures, I need a judicial system that protects me, I need a media that is reasonably free, I need financial parity, I need a set of institutional structures that allow me to operate as a political party. I do not have them,' Gandhi said.

He said the way the BJP is behaving, a lot of people are getting discontented very fast and there is a need to bring them together.

'We are no longer in the same paradigm we were before 2014, we are in a different paradigm. We are in a paradigm where the institutions that are supposed to protect us do not protect us anymore,' the Congress leader said.

The institutions that are supposed to support a fair political fight do not do so anymore, he said, adding, 'We have to redefine ourselves.' Noting that India is essentially a 'negotiation', Gandhi said the country's institutional framework basically allows it to manage that negotiation, but that framework is under attack.

'So I worry that the negotiation will break down and if the negotiation breaks down in a country like India, then we are in very serious trouble,' he said.

Asked by Burns about the farmer protests, the Congress leader said it is again about how one runs the country.

'I remember when we were in government, we had constant feedback. What amazed me was how effective, quick and powerful it was.... The model that the government uses and some of the ideas that it projects have shot down that feedback.

'You see it when Gauri Lankesh gets assassinated, you see it when people are beaten up, you see it when people are attacked...you are shutting down the feedback,' he said.

What has happened is that the government has shut the feedback route so the farmers have no other way except to come out on the streets, Gandhi argued.

'It is absolutely necessary to reform agriculture, but you cannot attack the foundation of the agriculture system and you certainly cannot do that without having a conversation, because they are going to react,' he said. PTI ASK/SKC RC