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Congress Leaders Meet Prez Kovind Over Agnipath Row, ED Probe of Rahul Gandhi

Scores of Congress leaders staged a protest at Jantar Mantar against the Agnipath scheme and the ED probe.

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Congress Leaders Meet Prez Kovind Over Agnipath Row, ED Probe of Rahul Gandhi
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Congress leaders on Monday, 20 June, met President Ram Nath Kovind to raise issues of alleged mistreatment of Members of Parliament by the police during their protest against the Enforcement Directorate's questioning of Rahul Gandhi as well as the newly unveiled Agnipath recruitment scheme.

On Monday, scores of senior Congress leaders and workers staged a protest at Jantar Mantar against the Centre's Agnipath defence recruitment scheme and the questioning of party leader Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, senior leaders Sachin Pilot, Salman Khurshid, Mallikarjun Kharge and KC Venugopal took part in the protest, which saw the participation of over 500 people.

Another protest was held by workers of the Indian Youth Congress at Connaught Place in New Delhi on Monday over the two issues, which threw traffic out of gear in areas surrounding the market.

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Meeting With President Kovind

The Congress delegation met President Ram Nath Kovind and raised the issue of alleged ill-treatment of party MPs by police during their protest against the ED questioning of former party chief Rahul Gandhi. The leaders also raised the issue of the Agnipath scheme and said that it should be rolled back.

The delegation comprised Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, senior leaders P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, and K C Venugopal.

In two letters to the president, Congress leaders brought to attention the "obstruction" by the Delhi police during the party's protest against Rahul Gandhi's questioning by the ED.

"For three days, beginning June 13th, Congress MPs were obstructed by the Delhi Police from exercising our democratic right to protest peacefully outside our own party headquarters. This obstruction was in clear violation of norms laid down by Supreme Court on the application of Section 144," the letter read.

Moreover, the leaders outlined their five-fold objections to the Agnipath recruitment scheme.

"After careful consideration of the views expressed by retired defence officers, security analysts and affected youth, we conclude that the scheme carries multiple risks, subverts the longstanding traditions and ethos of the armed forces, and there is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country," the letter said.

It also mentioned the lack of deliberations in the standing parliamentary committee for defence, short period of training within the scheme and the "savings on the pension bill" not being "established beyond doubt."

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Launching an offensive against the Centre over the Agnipath scheme, the Congress on Monday cited late Gen Bipin Rawat's 2020 proposal to raise soldiers and officers' retirement age to ask whether the new recruitment plan was not an insult to the approach of India's first chief of defence staff.

Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken said that Gen Rawat had advocated for raising the retirement age of soldiers to 58 years.

(With inputs from PTI)

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