A day after criticising the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Defence Minister and Congress veteran A.K. Antony’s son, Anil K. Antony stepped down from all party positions on January 25.
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“I have resigned from my roles in the Congress. Intolerant calls to retract a tweet, by those fighting for free speech. I refused. @facebook wall of hate/abuses by ones supporting a trek to promote love! Hypocrisy thy name is! Life goes on,” he tweeted.
Mr. Anil also tagged his resignation letter on his Twitter handle in which he announced his decision to step down from his role of Convenor of digital media in the Kerala Congress as well as one of the national coordinators in the social media cell of All India Congress Committee (AICC).
In the letter that doesn’t mention whom it is addressed to, Mr Anil writes, “By now, I have been made well aware that you, your colleagues, and the coterie around the leadership are only keen to work with a bunch of sycophants and chamchas, who would unquestionably be at your beck and call”.
On Tuesday, Antony junior had slammed the BBC as a “British state sponsored channel with a long history of prejudice” and asserted that giving precedence to the BBC documentary over Indian institutions would set “a dangerous precedent and undermine sovereignty”.
Clashing with KPCC
Mr. Anil’s public position on the BBC documentary went poorly with the KPCC leadership.?It felt that the “tactless tweet” undermined the party’s fight against Sangh Parivar’s “unceasing attempts” at social silencing and systematic de-pluralising of India’s secular polity by denying free speech and shutting out dissenters and contrarian views from the public debate.?
The statement drew flak from an array of Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan and KPCC president K. Sudhakaran.?State Youth Congress president Shafi Parambil, MLA, demanded Mr. Anil’s resignation.?
Nevertheless, Mr. Anil expressed his regard for the KPCC leadership, and for Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor.?Mr. Tharoor, though, disagreed with Mr. Anil’s stance that the BBC documentary undermined India’s sovereignty.
“India’s national security is not that brittle. It’s an immature stance. BBC has only a limited viewership in the country. Central government should have ideally ignored it instead of rendering the non-issue politically controversial”, he said.?
Mr. Tharoor stressed that Congress’s agitation was against State-imposed censorship and for freedom of expression. “Anil is a bright young man. But that does not mean we have to agree on everything,” he said.?
Mr. A. K. Antony, who was in Cherthala in the Alappuzha district to attend a wedding, declined to comment. He told journalists who mobbed him that it was indecorous to pose political questions at a family function.?
Rahul Gandhi’s stance
Mr. Anil’s views not only differed with the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) but also seemed to contradict the position taken by former party chief Rahul Gandhi. Though Rahul Gandhi didn’t directly comment on the contents of the documentary, he criticised the government for banning the BBC documentary.
“The truth always comes out. So, you can ban, you can suppress the press, you can control the institutions, you can use CBI, ED all the stuff but the truth is the truth. Truth shines bright. It has a nasty habit of coming out. So, no amount of banning, oppression and frightening people is going to stop the truth from coming out,” Mr. Gandhi told reporters at a press conference in Jammu on Tuesday.
Reacting to rhe development, BJP spokespersons Jaiveer Shergill alleged that “anybody who talks about sovereignty and the country’s self respect cannot remain in the Congress”
“The truth is that only those who serve the interest of Pakistan or China or those news agencies that malign Indias image, have the right to stay in the Congress,” Mr. Shergill said.
Political temperatures escalated in Kerala on Tuesday over the public screenings of the BBC documentary. While the Centre recently censored the documentary in purported “national interest”, student and youth organisations owing allegiance to the CPI(M) and the Congress defied the “ban” and provoked the ire of the BJP by holding public screenings on college and university campuses and city centres across the State.