Congress on Wednesday rallied behind former union minister P. Chidambaram who was arrested by CBI in INX media case, with party leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra strongly backing him and several senior leaders present at the press conference he addressed at the Congress headquarters after his dramatic appearance.
Party workers also reached Chidambaram's Jor Bagh residence after CBI and ED teams reached there following the press conference at the AICC office.
Congress communications department in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala termed his arrest a "shameless witch-hunt" and said, "democracy stands dead at the hands of BJP".
"The shameless witch-hunt & unheard of abuse of CBI/ED by Modi Govt 2.0 is playing on every TV screen in India. It's a sham and shame that democracy stands dead in the hands of the BJP," Surjewala said in a tweet.
Chidambaram, a member of Rajya Sabha, is a former Union Finance Minister and former Union Home Minister.
It is apparently the first time that a former minister who has held these portfolios has been arrested.
Earlier, both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi expressed their solidarity with Chidambaram after CBI and ED had issued lookout notices against him.
"Modi's Govt is using the ED, CBI & sections of a spineless media to character assassinate Chidambaram. I strongly condemn this disgraceful misuse of power," Rahul Gandhi said.
Priyanka Gandhi said Chidambaram was an "extremely qualified and respected member of the Rajya Sabha" and has served the nation with loyalty for decades including as Finance Minister and Home Minister.
"He unhesitatingly speaks truth to power and exposes the failures of this government, but the truth is inconvenient to cowards so he is being shamefully hunted down. We stand by him and will continue to fight for the truth no matter what the consequences are," she said.
Several other Congress leaders including Shashi Tharoor and Harish Rawat came out in support of Chidambaram.
Tharoor, in his tweet, referred to remarks made by Chidambaram in an interview. "It is a tribute to your strength of character that you are standing up to persecution and character assassination w/ courage and confidence. I believe justice will prevail in the end. Till then we will have to allow some malicious minds their schadenfreude," he said.
Congress party tweeted that it stands by his quest for truth "no matter what".
At the press conference, Chidambaram was flanked by senior party leaders Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha and KC Venugopal.
Sibal and Singhvi were among lawyers who represented Chidambaram in the Supreme Court on his plea to get relief from CBI and ED's pursuit of him in the INX media case. The matter was not heard by the court despite repeated efforts of his lawyers.
Chidambaram's Special Leave Petition (SLP) seeking a pre-arrest bail was not cleared by the Supreme Court registry in the morning as it had certain defects. Earlier, a bench headed by senior-most judge Justice N V Ramana referred the plea back to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The CJI, however, had commenced hearing in the Ayodhya dispute case due to which Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal was unable to mention the matter before him for urgent hearing.