What does SC's disqualification stay order mean for Rahul Gandhi?
In a major relief for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court on Friday (August 4) stayed his conviction by a Gujarat court in a defamation case over his ‘why all thieves have Modi surname’ remark.
A three-judge Bench headed by Justice B R Gavai said that the trial court judge did not justify why Rahul should have been awarded the maximum sentence of two years which attracted his disqualification as an MP.
“Particularly, when the offence was non-compoundable, bailable and cognisable, the least that was expected from the learned trial judge was to give reasons for imposing the maximum punishment…,” said the bench. However, the top court also pulled up Rahul for not being careful in making the alleged remarks.
Meanwhile, Rahul reacting to the SC order said: “Come what may, my duty remains the same; protect the idea of India.”
What is the impact of the order on the INDIA coalition?
The stay on his conviction is undoubtedly a major morale booster for the Congress and also gives the wider Opposition bloc in the INDIA coalition to escalate its attacks on the BJP, particularly on the charge that the Centre is misusing central agencies and institutions to target political rivals.
Conversely, it will be interesting to see how Rahul’s return to Parliament and the prospect of him contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will affect the power equations and aspirations of other Opposition satraps such as Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal.
Officially, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had declared that his party is not eyeing power for itself nor the PM’s post but that was when there was uncertainty over whether Rahul will be able to contest the general elections. Will this pitch by Kharge now change? More importantly, will Nehru-Gandhi family sycophants in the party be reined in from making a Rahul-for-PM pitch?
When will Rahul be back in Lok Sabha and will he get his official residence back?
Technically, with the stay on his conviction being granted by the SC, Rahul’s membership of the Lok Sabha can be restored immediately.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, has said he will be writing to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla today (August 4) seeking immediate restoration of Rahul’s membership. Once his membership is restored, Rahul automatically qualifies again for an official bungalow commensurate with his seniority as an MP and the requirements of his security protocol.
However, it remains to be seen whether he will be allocated the 12, Tughlaq Lane residence that he had occupied ever since he became an MP.
Will Rahul be back in the Bharat Jodo Yatra trail?
The possibility of a hybrid version of the BJY from Porbandar in Gujarat to Pasighat in Arunachal had been hinted at by the Congress communication department chief Jairam Ramesh at the end of the 85th Congress Plenary Session in Raipur in February this year.
However, no formal announcement about it has been made even though Rahul has been spending time meeting people from different walks of life, from farmers to students, mechanics to slum dwellers, in and around Delhi or even taking a bus ride on the Chandigarh-Shimla highway. Those close to him say while such impromptu visits by Rahul will continue and cover a wider area beyond Delhi and its neighbouring states, a BJY 2.0 isn’t entirely ruled out as of now.
Does this mean there will be no by-election to fill the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat?
Yes, there will be no by-election. Even though the disqualification is yet to be formally revoked by the Lok Sabha Speaker, the grant of the stay has removed the grounds for the disqualification.