NEW DELHI: After being reinstated as a parliamentarian by the top court, Rahul Gandhi, the Indian opposition leader, Wednesday came down hard on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for dragging his feet in taking action against the deadly violence in Manipur that killed at least 120 people.
Rahul Gandhi delivered his first in-house speech after he was sentenced to two years due to his defamation remarks against Modi leading him towards his disqualification.
Gandhi, the scion of India’s premier political dynasty, was restored to parliament Monday after the Supreme Court last week suspended his defamation conviction over comments criticising Modi.
Gandhi was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in March in a case that critics flagged as an effort to stifle political opposition in the world’s largest democracy.
Modi’s government is being pushed to defend its decisions over the brutal violence in the northeastern part of India.
Gandhi’s fiery address to the chamber was part of a no-confidence debate demanding the government to let go of power as the violence festered for months.
“You are throwing kerosene in the whole country. You threw kerosene in Manipur, and lit a spark,” Gandhi said, with cheers from supporters and jeers from rival lawmakers.
“You’re set on burning the whole country. You are killing Mother India”, Gandhi added.
Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is regularly accused by opponents of fomenting divisions for electoral purposes, and India will hold general elections early next year.
The ruling BJP has a large majority in the 543-member lower house and is expected to comfortably defeat the no-confidence vote, which it has dismissed as a headline-grabbing gimmick.
“India’s army can bring in peace in one day but you’re not using it,” Gandhi told lawmakers.
“If Modi doesn’t listen to the voice of India, then whose voice does he listen to?”
Soldiers have been rushed in from other parts of India to contain the violence and a curfew and internet shutdown remain in force across most of the state.
The 53-year-old is the son, grandson and great-grandson of three former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.
Congress was once India’s dominant political force but Gandhi has led it to two landslide defeats against the BJP and its nationalistic appeals to the country’s Hindu majority.
Gandhi and his allies are attempting to stitch together a grand coalition of smaller parties ahead of next year’s national elections, in which Modi will seek a third successive term.
At least 120 people have been killed in Manipur since May in armed clashes between the predominantly Hindu Meitei majority and the mainly Christian Kuki community.
The state has fractured on ethnic lines, with rival militias setting up blockades to keep out members of the opposing community.
Modi has been criticised by opponents for taking more than two months to speak about the conflict when clashes began.
The no-confidence debate is scheduled to conclude Thursday after a speech by the prime minister.
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