Rahul Gandhi was speaking to faculty and students at America’s Brown University.

New Delhi:

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi used to win elections as well, as he scaled up his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s dwindling status in global democracy metrics.

“Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi used to have elections. They used to win them. It wasn’t like they weren’t voting but there was no institutional framework to protect that vote,” he said In an online interaction with Brown University professor Ashutosh Varshney, faculty and students.

“An election is not simply people going and pressing a button on a voting machine. An election is about narrative. An election is about institutions that make sure that the framework in the country is operating properly, an election is about the judiciary being fare and a debate taking place in parliament. So you need those things for a vote to count,” he said.

Mr Gandhi’s comments came days after he claimed India is “no longer” a democratic country, quoting media reports of a Sweden-based institute downgrading India to an “electoral autocracy” citing a “decline in democratic freedoms” since PM Modi took office in 2014.

The move by Sweden’s V-Dem Institute came shortly after another global report by US government-funded NGO Freedom House that downgraded India’s status from “free” to “partly free” and claimed that “political rights and civil liberties have eroded in India since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014”.

The government has strongly rebutted the Freedom House report and called it “misleading, incorrect and misplaced” while asserting that the country has well established democratic practices.

“The situation in India is worse, we do not need a stamp regarding that,” Mr Gandhi said when asked about the downgrade. He compared the views of BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Rahul Gandhi also claimed that his mic was “turned off” in parliament once. “My mic was turned off in the parliament and it was not telecast on television,” he said.

“BJP MPs in parliament tell me that they cannot have an open discussion. They say they are told what to say,” he said.

Asked about the implications of China rising to a “global superpower status”, he said, “The rise of Chinese is affecting our politics for some time now… Chinese have a military strategy and there is no counter-strategy to that,” he added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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