Rahul supports FTII students, faces ire from BJP

Pune, July 31 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday urged the Narendra Modi government “not to impose its will” on students of FTII here while attacking the RSS for promoting “mediocrity”. The BJP hit back with its activists protesting his presence, and party leaders questioning his own credentials for being his party’s second in command.

Gandhi’s arrival here was met with protest by BJP activists, who took out a procession, brandishing saffron and black flags and raising slogans against him for “politicising” the issue.

However, Gandhi continued to support the over 200 striking Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students, who, since 50 days, have been opposing the appointment of actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as FTII chairman. He said their demand was “justified” and the government “must talk” to the student community.

“If they talk, it will only increase the government’s stature… the students are here only to study. But, now their academics are getting affected… I feel the government must have a dialogue with them,” Gandhi, attired in a dark t-shirt and blue jeans, urged while addressing the media after his interaction with the students.

He added that the students feel the government is attempting “to impose its will” on the student community, and that can be be resolved through talks. He also questioned why the government was feeling insecure by the (students’) protests.

Gandhi also said: “A person who is mediocre has been put on top of people who don’t want to be mediocre…The RSS and its wings promote mediocrity. I have seen this everywhere…They will say you are anti-national, anti-Hindu. They are scared of you. That is the nature of a bully.”

In reaction, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted: “Does Rahul Gandhi’s statement at FTII, Pune about ‘Mediocrity on the Top’ also apply to the Congress Party.”

BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao told reporters: “Want to ask Rahul Gandhi on what merits had Congress promoted him to be vice president? Doesn’t he represent lowest form of mediocrity in politics? Before you start throwing stones at others look at your own glass house.”

Actor-turned-politician and BJP MP Paresh Rawal also took a dig at Gandhi, saying: “I have not listened to Rahul Gandhi’s questions. He has got a topic. We should at least allow him to be happy and celebrate. We will answer him later.

“I just want to ask the students at FTII if they are seeing a political worker in Gajendra Chauhan, then are they also seeing an actor in Rahul Gandhi?”

Gandhi has assured the students that he would support them in all possible manners whenever required, and lauded the students saying he was proud of them.

“The real question is — how strongly are you willing to fight this issue? I am ready to fight with you,” he said.

Several students of FTII have been agitating against the appointment of Chauhan as the institute’s chairman. They have boycotted classes and have been threatened with disciplinary action.

Earlier, prominent former students, including actors and top Bollywood personalities supported the students agitation against Chauhan’s appointment.

FTII is a premier institute for film-related studies, and has produced noted alumni like like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Jahnu Barua, Shabana Azmi, Santosh Sivan and Naseeruddin Shah.

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