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On G20 summit eve, India's Rahul Gandhi says democratic institutions under attack

FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi gestures as he addresses the media in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's democratic institutions and minority groups are under a "full-scale assault", opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said on Friday, attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on the eve of a high-profile G20 summit in New Delhi.

Civil society, opposition parties and some foreign governments have in the past raised concerns over decisions of Modi's government that they say are aimed at throttling dissent, fanning religious discrimination and keeping the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power.

The government has denied all such accusations and Modi has said his administration was working for the betterment of all.

"I think there is a sense in India that democratic institutions in our country are under attack and they are under attack from the group of people who are running India," Gandhi, a member of parliament from the Congress party, told reporters at the Brussels Press Club.

"There's a full-scale assault on democratic institutions...of course minorities are under attack, but so are other communities...tribals, lower caste communities," he said.

Gandhi has made similar comments abroad in the past, drawing strong responses from BJP.

Gandhi's Congress is leading an alliance of 28 parties to challenge BJP in a national election due by May 2024.

India, the world's most populous country, holds the rotating presidency of the G20 and aims to showcase its economic potential and pitch itself as a reliable manufacturing and services hub to the visiting leaders of the bloc.

India is also promoting itself as a "voice" of developing nations on the global stage, as a counterweight to China.

Gandhi said he would meet European lawmakers in Brussels during his visit and talk to them about their views on India.

He indicated, however, that India's opposition parties would agree with the largely-neutral position taken by New Delhi on Russia's invasion of Ukraine - avoiding blaming Moscow for the war and seeking a solution through dialogue and diplomacy.

"We have a relationship with Russia, I don't think the opposition would have a different view than what the government is currently proposing," Gandhi said.

(Reporting by Shivam Patel; Editing by YP Rajesh and Alex Richardson)