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Never imagined I would get maximum punishment: Rahul Gandhi at Stanford

San Francisco, June 1 (IANS) Breaking his silence on his disqualification from Parliament, former Congress Rahul Gandhi has said that he had never imagined that he would get maximum punishment in a defamation case and would be disqualified as an MP, but asserted that it has given him a lot of opportunity to work.

He said on Wednesday that “democracy isn’t about opposition, it is about sacred institutions that support the opposition, and those institutions by the capture certainly want to change the role it is supposed to do.”

He made the remarks while delivering a lecture at the prestigious Stanford University Campus in California on the changing world order and India’s crucial role within it.

Addressing the gathering, Rahul Gandhi, who is on a six-day visit to the US said, “I have heard about your institution. I have been asked to speak about global transition and how the world is changing. And also how one should act through the change. And acting through the turbulence that is going to come.”

Referring to his introduction as a former MP, the Congress leader said, “I heard in the introduction that I was a member of Parliament until I was… (disqualified).

“I don’t think when I joined politics in 2004, I ever imagined what I see going on in our country. It was way outside the way I imagined. To be the first person to be given the first maximum sentence on defamation and maximum sentence to get disqualified. I didn’t imagine that something like this was possible,” the former Wayanad Lok Sabha MP said.

Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as an MP on March 23, a day after he was convicted in a defamation case over his ‘Modi surname case’ by a Surat court.

He also had to vacate his official residence following disqualification on April 22.

He will not be eligible to contest elections for eight years till the time a higher court stays his conviction and sentence.

“But then I think it’s actually given me a huge opportunity, a much bigger opportunity I would have in Parliament. That is the way politics works,” he said.

“I think the drama started really about six months ago. We were struggling, how the entire opposition is struggling in India. Huge financial dominance, institutional capture, we were struggling to fight for the democratic rights in the country,” he said, hitting out at the government.

“Then we decided… None of the system worked… democracy isn’t about opposition, it’s about sacred institutions that support the opposition. Those institutions by the capture certainly want to change the role it is supposed to play. So we decided to do something quite strange,” Rahul Gandhi said, adding that then he along with his party leaders just decided to walk across the country (through Bharat Jodo Yatra).

“And we never imagined for a second what would happen when we walked across the country. What would happen not just politically, but in terms of the type of response we got, what would happen to us when we walked across our country.

“We started with 125 people … and it fundamentally transformed the way we think about our country, our people, and politics.

“Lot of people asked me what are the lessons learnt from it. And for a long time I couldn’t find an answer… I have picked up so much information about the country and what needs to be done. It was a beautiful experience of my life,” he said, talking about the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which began from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari on September 7 last year and concluded in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar on January 30 after covering a distance of almost 4,000 km.

“We met, what would I best describe as the soul of the country, and very quickly a silence descended on us. It happened because we came in contact with people. We just stopped talking and we heard tears of immense suffering.”

Rahul Gandhi discussed the story of a mechanic, who didn’t have arms and how he showed he worked.

“It shows a disconnect in politics, it is everywhere in India and US too. We experienced this multiple times.

“All the forces of the Government of India could do nothing and the more they applied force the more it grew.

“They have all the force, they have the system, power and they cannot stop us. Force and power are completely two different things. Politicians are confused about the two. Power is an act of imagination, power comes when you go to the truth. We were weaving around the truth that’s why they could not transfer that force into power.

“In Kashmir, they said if you walk for the last four days you will be killed. I said I want to see the person who wants to throw a hand grenade.

“You can see moments of power versus truth. Mahatma Gandhi fought the entire British empire, he had no force, while the British had all the force, army and the system. It doesn’t matter how much force a person has. I am making this distinction for the transition we are facing.”

After the lecture at the Stanford University, Rahul Gandhi said, “It was a pleasure to engage with the learned audience at Stanford on ‘The New Global Equilibrium’. We discussed the challenges and opportunities of a changing world order. Actions based on truth are the way forward.”

On Monday, Rahul Gandhi slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that India is being run by people who think they know more than God and the Prime Minister is “one such specimen”.

“I think if you sat Modi Ji down next to God, he would start explaining to God how the universe works. And God would get confused about what I have created,” the Congress leader had quipped.

BJP hit back at Rahul Gandhi for his remarks against the Prime Minister and accused him of defaming the country on foreign soil.

The Congress leader is scheduled to meet several people during his visit to the US in the coming days in Washington D.C. and New York.

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