Congress president Rahul Gandhi yesterday expressed regret for attributing his “chowkidar chor hai” (watchman is a thief) remarks to the Supreme Court and said he had said so in the “heat of the moment”.
Gandhi also said that his comment was deliberately used by his political opponents to gain leverage.
“It has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this court had said chowkidar chor Hai! Nothing could be farther from my mind. It is also clear that no court would ever do that and hence the unfortunate references (for which I express regret) to the court order,” Gandhi said in his response submitted to the court.
He also defended his comments stating that it was based upon the immediate general perception that in the review petition filed in the Rafale case, the Supreme Court had reopened the case for hearing, and it had not allowed the shutting out of new facts and documents as was desired by the government and that there was generally a sense of victory and exhilaration among those who had been campaigning for inquiry into the controversy.
Gandhi said he had responded to media queries in the context, and it was done during hectic political campaigning “without having seen, read or analysed” the court order at that stage.
Although the Congress president insisted that his party continued to believe that the Rafale was “a tainted deal”, and “the remarks that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this court had said chowkidar chor hai! Nothing could be farther from my mind”, he said.
He added that the statement was purely political in nature to counter the misinformation campaign being run by senior functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the government.
Gandhi also said that the contempt petition in itself was an abuse of the process of the top court.
Defence Minister and BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman said Gandhi had lost his credibility after he expressed regret.
Addressing a press conference, Sitharaman said the Congress had diluted its stand on national security after its leader P Chidambaram sought to change India’s behaviour towards Pakistan to normalise ties.
Coming down heavily on Gandhi, the defence minister said the regret expressed by him was done as part of “political convenience” and to avoid “contempt of court”.
“It was done to escape the wrath of the court...I would definitely say that it is a matter of credibility which is affected badly when people in public life are pushed to the circumstances to have to regret having said something based on untruth,” she said.
“Rahul Gandhi’s credibility has taken a beating. He keeps on repeating untruths. It is a matter of grief.”
Sitharaman said she felt “sorry” that the Congress was dependent on “falsehood”.
She asked the Congress to come clear on what behavioural change it wanted from the government in relation to Pakistan.
“Do they want us to stop taking action against terrorism? Do they want us to compromise on our territory? Do they want the government of India to state that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory?” she said.
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