Before they hit the streets, the Congress MPs, all dressed up in black, also staged protests in Parliament, forcing an adjournment of proceedings in both Houses.
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra were among those who demonstrated and were detained. Their mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi stood with the MPs at the main entrance of the Parliament house, where they raised slogans before the cameras ahead of the march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The demonstration in the national capital was part of nationwide protests that the Congress had called for on Friday. The protests also come close on the heels of the government-Congress stand-off over the Enforcement Directorate grilling top party leaders in the National Herald case.
The Congress later released a video that showed policewomen pulling Vadra into a police vehicle, and asked if protesting over inflation was a crime now.
Ahead of the Congress demonstrations, Rahul Gandhi, spotting a black badge, held a press conference at the Congress headquarters, where he alleged that democracy was fast vanishing in India and that the government was targeting its critics.
“Today there is no democracy in India, there is a dictatorship. Anyone speaking against this government is viciously attacked and put in jail … The people’s issues such as price rise, unemployment are not being allowed to be raised in Parliament. We are not allowed to speak in Parliament, we are arrested on the road. This is the condition of India today,” he alleged.
Responding to questions on the weak state of the Congress as an opposition party, he said the opposition did not have an institutional backing.
“Opposition fights alongside the country’s institutions. These institutions are today under RSS control. These institutions have lost their independence. Hence, the impact of opposition is not effective,” he said.
Incidentally, the Congress has been functioning without even a full-time president for over three years now, after Rahul Gandhi quit the leadership post his poll defeat.
He also tried to argue that the establishment’s control over institutions was the reason for the Modi-led BJP’s winning streak in polls. “Hitler used to win elections too. How did he do it? He had control of all of Germany’s institutions. Give me the entire system. Then I will show you how elections are won,” he said.