'If And When PM Agrees...': Rahul Gandhi On Invitation For Public Debate

The invitation was extended by two former judges, Madan Lokur and AP Shah, and senior journalist N Ram.

New Delhi:

A day after he said he was 100% ready to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a public debate on the Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has formally replied to a letter by two former judges and a senior journalist inviting him and the PM to be part of such an event.

Stating that he or Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge would be pleased to participate in the debate, the Wayanad MP has asked the potential organisers to let him know if the PM agrees to do so as well. 

Former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and N Ram, senior journalist and former editor of ‘The Hindu’, had written to PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, proposing a public debate between them. The letter said that the Lok Sabha election has reached its halfway mark and while both sides have raised important questions about each other’s manifestos and key issues, there had been no “meaningful responses”. 

“To this end, we believe that citizens would hugely benefit by hearing directly from our political leaders through a public debate on a non-partisan and non-commercial platform. It would be ideal if the public heard not just the questions of each side, but also the responses. We are of the view that this would help to strengthen our democratic process immensely,” the letter said.

Responding to Mr Ram and the two former judges, Mr Gandhi said on Saturday that he looks forward to participating in a “productive and historic debate” and that the country “expects the Prime Minister to take part in this dialogue”.

“I have discussed your invitation with the Congress President, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge Ji. We agree that such a debate will help people understand our respective vision and enable them to make an informed choice. It is also critical to put to rest any unsubstantiated allegations attributed to our respective parties,” the former Congress president said in a response posted on X. 

“As the principal parties fighting the election, the public deserve to hear from their leaders directly. Accordingly, either myself or the Congress President would be pleased to participate in such a debate. Please do let us know if and when the Prime Minister agrees to participate, following which we can discuss the details and format of the debate,” he added.

At an event on Friday, the Wayanad MP had been asked about the invitation and he had said, “I am 100% ready to debate with the Prime Minister. But I know the PM, he will not agree to a debate with me. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge can also take part in such a debate.”

The United States has seen debates between contenders for the President’s post since 1947, when two Republican contenders agreed to a verbal duel which was broadcast on radio and the first televised debate took place in 1952. Barring a few years, the debates have been a fixture of the American political landscape since then and provide a platform for voters to assess their candidates as well as understand their positions on various issues.