Rahul Gandhi, Congress, disqualification,
Reacting to his disqualification, Rahul said he is ready to pay the price for speaking up.

Rahul disqualification: Will keep fighting, says Cong; BJP terms action lawful

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday (March 24) was disqualified from the Lok Sabha in an action that the party termed an attempt to “silence” his voice as it vowed to fight the battle legally and politically.

Rahul’s disqualification came a day after a Surat court convicted him in a 2019 criminal defamation case.

Reacting to the move, Rahul said he is ready to pay the price for speaking up. “I am fighting for the voice of my country. I am ready to pay the price,” he tweeted.

The BJP dismissed the charges of the Congress and termed the disqualification “lawful”.

Surat court order

The disqualification, which will bar the 52-year-old leader from contesting polls for eight years unless stayed by a higher court, saw a shift in the dynamics of Opposition ranks with Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also expressing strong support for the embattled leader, along with several other Opposition parties.

Announcing his disqualification, the Lok Sabha Secretariat in a notification said that it was effective from March 23, the day of his conviction.

“Consequent upon his conviction by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat…Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March, 2023,” the notification read.

This was Gandhi’s fourth Lok Sabha term. First elected to the lower house in 2004 from Amethi, Rahul represented that constituency for two more terms. In 2019, he lost the Amethi seat to Smriti Irani, but managed to win from Wayanad.

The court in Surat on Thursday sentenced Rahul to two years in jail in a defamation case filed on a complaint by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi for his alleged remark, “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?”

As per rules, the Congress leader would not be able to contest elections for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction and sentence.

Rahul attended Lok Sabha proceedings in the morning session before the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued the notification. Earlier in the morning, he also participated in a meeting of party MPs in the Parliament complex.

Incidentally, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, in 2013, had attempted to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling to set aside an RP Act provision under which a person sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving time.

Rahul himself had opposed the ordinance at that time and tore the ordinance in a press conference as a token of protest.

Black day for Indian democracy: Congress

Reacting to Rahul’s disqualification, the Congress said it was “a black day for Indian democracy” and asserted that the battle will be fought both “legally and politically”.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the BJP made all efforts to get him disqualified as he was speaking the truth.

“He has been removed from the House for speaking the truth, fighting for the Constitution and for people’s rights,” Kharge alleged.

“This was not a question of backward class, Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi are not of backward class. They are trying to build a perception that Rahul Gandhi spoke against backward class. Rahul was putting forward the truth before the country so they were not liking it,” Kharge said in an apparent reference to BJP chief J P Nadda’s remarks that Rahul had compared OBC communities to thieves.

Kharge said that the BJP shouldn’t not be under the impression that ousting him from Lok Sabha would silence the Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the Adani issue.

“We will keep fighting for protecting democracy and even if we have to go to jail, we will do so. Our people are ready to fight,” Kharge said.

“We will fight this battle both legally and politically. We will not be intimidated or silenced. Instead of a JPC into the PM-linked Adani Maha Mega Scam, Rahul Gandhi stands disqualified. Indian Democracy Om Shanti,” Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet.

Congress general secretary in-charge, organisation, KC Venugopal also lashed out at the government and said the day Rahul raised questions about the Adani issue against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP planned a “conspiracy” to muzzle his voice.

“This is a clear case of anti-democratic, dictatorial attitude of the BJP government,” Venugopal said in a video statement.

In a tweet later, he said, “Rahul Gandhi jis disqualification is the final nail in the coffin. This is a black day for Indian democracy. It is a well-orchestrated move of the Modi government to silence his voice in Parliament. We will fight this legally and politically on every front, the truth will prevail.”

Everyone equal before law: BJP

The BJP has, however, defended Rahul’s disqualification, and said it proves that everyone is equal before law.

Union Minister of State for Law and Justice S P S Baghel termed it as “lawful” and asserted that “everyone is equal before law”. He also noted that a BJP MLA was also recently disqualified in Uttar Pradesh following his conviction in a criminal case.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the decision was a legal one and alleged the Congress was questioning the judiciary.

Also read: Rahul’s disqualification lawful, not political; is Cong questioning court?: BJP leaders  

“It was a legal decision and not a call taken by the political party. It was taken by a court. The Congress should clarify who they are protesting against,” he said.

Senior BJP leader Bhupender Yadav said Rahul had got enough opportunities to explain himself, provide evidence and all rules have been followed leading to his disqualification.

The disqualification also saw many Opposition parties rallying in support of Rahul with Trinamool Congress, AAP, the Left parties, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray), and NCP, among others, backing the former Congress chief.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in a tweet accused the BJP of targeting Opposition leaders.

“In PM Modi’s New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches. Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy,” she said in a tweet.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification political vendetta: Congress

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader, Priyanka Chaturvedi questioned the state of democracy in the country. “Vindictive and shameful action against Rahul Gandhi. This disqualification yet again proves that we are living in the times of caged democracy,” she said in a tweet.

CPI-ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya remarked at the alacrity of the government in taking action against Rahul.

“The sentence against @RahulGandhi in the alleged Modi defamation case was announced yesterday and within a day he is now disqualified from the Lok Sabha! Nothing short of a surgical strike on democracy! Time for the entire opposition to rally against this unbridled emergency!” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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