Congress leaders took to the streets on Monday as Rahul Gandhi appeared before the ED for questioning in a money laundering case, with the police heavily barricading central Delhi areas and detaining party leaders for violating prohibitory orders.
Prominent among those detained were Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala, K C Venugopal, and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Gandhi, 51, arrived at the probe agency in central Delhi around 11 AM after he started from the Congress office on Akbar Road accompanied by a large convoy of party leaders including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and Baghel.
In view of the barricading, Gandhi took a detour to reach the probe agency’s office.
This is the first time that Gandhi has appeared before a central probe agency for questioning in a case.
Congress MPs and workers had assembled at the AICC headquarters where Surjewala announced they would march peacefully towards the ED office and if they are stopped, they would court arrest.
Raising slogans in support of Gandhi, Congress workers started a march towards the ED office but were stopped by the police which had put up barricades all around the AICC office. Some Congress workers also mounted barricades.
A large number of workers were taken in preventive custody for violating the provisions of Section 144 CrPC banning assembly of more than four persons, which was imposed in central Delhi.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Baghel claimed that he has been arrested.
”I have been arrested….you should ask the Delhi Police why I have been arrested,” he told reporters outside the ED office.
“This is a dictatorship. Several Congress workers have been detained because they wanted to carry out a peaceful march. I am also being detained. This is unprecedented that Congress workers were not allowed to enter the Congress headquarters. If there is no FIR and how can ED summon him,” Baghel said.
The police, however, clarified that he is being detained and not arrested as he refused to leave despite several warnings.
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of misusing agencies ”They are misusing agencies and they are harassing people,” he said. Surjewala said Congress leaders had done nothing wrong and alleged that ”Godse’s descendants fear from the truth and they will not be able to suppress truth”.
He said Congress had launched a ‘Satyagrah’ during the freedom struggle and the BJP cannot teach them Satyagrah.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot also alleged that the government was misusing central probe agencies and this was nothing but a ”political vendetta”.
Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat said, ”This is a fight for democracy. The government is trying to muzzle the voices of politicians who are trying to raise their voices.” He alleged that the ED had earlier cleared the name of Rahul Gandhi and asked why he is being targeted now. ”Now Satyagraha will take place at every corner and nook,” he said.
Newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP Ranjeet Ranjan said, ”Why is the government not allowing us to carry out a peaceful protest?” She said the party that has been serving the nation for decades is not allowed to carry out a peaceful protest. ”This is a dictatorship. You had to apologize to five countries over action of a spokeswoman and we cannot ever carry out a rally,” she said referring to the controversy over the remarks against Prophet Mohammad.
Another Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said this was nothing but an attempt to intimidate the Congress and the people of India will not allow this to happen.