‘Dictatorship, death blow to democracy’, say Opposition leaders

'It's dictatorship, country passing through very difficult times', says Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal; new low for constitutional democracy, says West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

Pinarayi Vijayan, Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (left), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (centre), and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (right). File photo: PTI

Opposition parties came together to condemn Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha on Friday. Leaders ranging from Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal to TMC head Mamata Banerjee to Tamil Nadu and Kerala chief minsters M K Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan called the disqualification a threat to democracy.

Reacting to the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha, AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday launched a blistering attack on the Centre, saying it was “shocking” and that the country was passing through very difficult times. He referred to the Congress MP’s disqualification in a speech in the Delhi Assembly and said the BJP was scared.

Later talking to reporters, Kejriwal said it was “quite a worrisome situation”. “It’s not just a fight of the Congress or Rahul Gandhi, it’s a fight of the entire opposition,” he said. Kejriwal alleged that the BJP wanted to create a situation wherein there is just one party in the country. This is “dictatorship” and the BJP government is “more dangerous” than the British rulers before Independence, he charged. He also condemned the disqualification in a tweet.

“The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha is shocking. The country is passing through very difficult times. They have terrorised the entire country. One hundred and thirty crore people will have to unite against this arrogant power,” Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.

Kejriwal said that the Prime Minister was scared of voices against his government. “Rahul ko arrest kar liya hai, Rahul ko dismiss kar diya hai sadan se. Itna dara hua Pradhan Mantri aaj tak Azad Bharat ne nahi dekha. (They convicted Rahul and then dismissed him from the Parliament. I have never seen a Prime Minister who is so scared of Opposition forces).”

Also read: Rahul’s disqualification: How is an MP disqualified and what are recourse options

Mamata’s missive

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said it was a new low for constitutional democracy.” In a tweet, Banerjee wrote: “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.”

TMC Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra called it “last nail in the coffin for constitutional freedoms in India.”

Diverting attention: Akhilesh

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav claimed it is BJP’s tactic to divert people’s attention from issues like inflation, unemployment and an “industrialist friend” sinking India’s money. The former Uttar Pradesh CM also alleged that since the BJP came to power in UP in 2017, it took help of the government and the administration to get false cases lodged against Samajwadi Party MLAs like Azam Khan and got them disqualified from the state assembly.

“Defamation of the country. public defamation. defamation of harmony. defamation of the constitution. defamation of the economy. Don’t know how many types of defamation cases should be filed against the BJP. The BJP, which secures its political future by implicating the opposition in minor cases, is scared of the power of the opposition,” Yadav tweeted in Hindi.

“The political challenge does not end with the hijacking of the membership of Parliament. The biggest movement is not the Parliament; We have won by fighting on the street. The person who has claimed defamation should actually do this against those people who betrayed their country and fled abroad, due to which their name and fame have been harmed,” Yadav wrote in another tweet.

Withdraw action: Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu CM and DMK president MK Stalin said that the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi as MP before he could go for an appeal is “death knell for democracy.” “The metamorphosis of BJP’s vindictive politics into autocracy is happening at an alarming pace. If one goes by history, it is very clear what is in store for such autocrats,” Stalin said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“I condemn the fascist act of disqualification of India’s young leader Thiru. Rahul Gandhi as Member of Parliament, in unequivocal terms. This amounts to threatening and curtailing the fundamental democratic right of a national party’s leader and an MP to express his opinion… To disqualify Rahul Gandhi as an MP, before he could go for an appeal is nothing but snatching away the right of an elected Member of Parliament,” Stalin wrote, adding that the disqualification is an onslaught on all the progressive-democratic forces of our country and all political parties shall realise this and oppose it unitedly.

On the other hand, Telangana Congress president Revanth Reddy claimed that Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and his demand for a JPC probe into the Adani issue are giving sleepless nights to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a tweet in Telugu, the Lok Sabha MP termed Rahul’s disqualification as a “death blow” to democracy and freedom of expression. Reddy asserted that the Congress would defeat the “conspiracy” through a legal battle. Affirming that the country would stand with Rahul, Reddy told reporters that he and other party men would hit the streets against such “wicked decisions”.

BRS President & Telangana CM KC Rao called it a “black day” for democracy. “Today is a Black Day in the history of Indian democracy. Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Parliament is the height of Narendra Modi’s arrogance and dictatorship…This is not the time for conflicts between parties. All democrats should openly condemn the misdeeds of BJP govt to safeguard the democracy and constitutional values in the country,” KCR said. tweeted.

Vijayan’s appeal

“The hasty decision to disqualify @RahulGandhi as a member of the Lok Sabha is yet another episode in @BJP4India’s authoritarian rampage against Indian democracy. This brazen assault is an insult to our democratic values and can’t be overlooked. It must be unequivocally denounced,” Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted. The use of force to suppress dissent is a fascistic method, Vijayan said in a release.

“A prominent leader of the opposition has been attacked like this. Then, what will be the fate of common people who express their voices freely? What respect do they have for our constitutional values? The arrest of opposition MPs in Delhi for protesting against the political interference in non BJP ruled States using agencies under the Union Government, as well as the cases against Manish Sisodia and Rahul Gandhi, is another side of this,” the release from Kerala CM read.

Vijayan said that the rowing intolerance towards criticism is endangering our democracy and urged all democratic forces in the country to stand together and condemn the action taken against Rahul. “In Delhi, cases are being filed and mass arrests are being conducted for pasting posters against the Union Government. None of these augur well for a democratic society, or fall in line with our constitutional tenets,” he said.

Murder of democracy: Uddhav

Former Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena (UBT) party, dubbed Rahul’s disqualification as “murder” of democracy and said this is the beginning of the end of “dictatorship”. In a statement, Thackeray said it has become a crime to call a thief a thief, while those “looting” the country are out. “This is the murder of democracy. All agencies are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of the dictatorship…the battle only needs a direction (now),” Thackeray said.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi disqualified from Lok Sabha; ‘not intimidated,’ says Kharge

“DEMOCRATIC INDIA is an OXYMORON Now. #ripdemocracy,” tweeted Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee even as senior TMC leader Derek O’ Brien ermed it as the BJP’s desperation to silence the opposition. Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray called it ‘”a planned end to democracy.” He said: “Every high-handed step now proves that we are moving rapidly towards a planned end to democracy and constitutional ideals in our country. This is not about only Rahul Gandhi or one disqualification. This is about all of us as citizens, and whether we can say democracy is alive.”

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, on the other hand, termed the action against Rahul as  ‘vindictive and shameful,’ adding that the disqualification yet again proves that ‘we are living in the times of caged democracy. “With all due respect to the judiciary, Sh. Rahul Gandhi’s conviction is excessive and will have far reaching consequences. This non-stop targeting of opposition leaders is condemnable & it won’t silence the voices who speak for the people & refuse to be ji huzoor of the government,” she tweeted.

Gandhi was disqualified from Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after he was convicted by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his remark on the “Modi surname”. Announcing his disqualification, the Lok Sabha Secretariat in a notification said that it would be effective from March 23, the day of his conviction.

(With Agency inputs)