Disqualified from Lok Sabha over defamation case, Rahul vacates house

Rahul, who said that he is prepared to pay any price for speaking truth to the power, has shifted to his mother Sonia Gandhi’s official residence 10, Janpath. Sonia and  Priyanka were present when the Congress scion handed over the keys to government officials, writes Amit Agnihotri

Rahul Gandhi, who vacated his official 12, Tuglaq Lane bungalow on April 22 following his disqualification from the Lok Sabha has said he is prepared to pay any price for speaking truth to power.

The bungalow was allotted to Rahul in 2004 when he first entered the Lok Sabha and represented Amethi parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress leader continued to represent Amethi till 2019 when he lost his traditional seat but won from Wayanad in Kerala.

“This house was given to me by the people of India. I thank them. I have paid the price for speaking the truth. But I am ready to pay any price for speaking the truth,” Rahul said after he handed over the keys to government officials.

“My brother is suffering because he spoke the truth about the government. But we are not afraid. He will not back off. He will continue to fight,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in support.

For now, Rahul has shifted to his mother Sonia Gandhi’s official residence 10, Janpath. Sonia, Priyanka and AICC general secretary in charge of organization KC Venugopal were present when Rahul handed over the keys to government officials.

“They can give this house to anyone now. The way the Modi government is targeting Rahul Gandhi is completely a political agenda,” said Venugopal.

The disqualification happened on March 24 as a result of Rahul’s conviction and sentence of a two-year jail term in a 2019 criminal defamation case involving the surname of PM Modi by a Surat trial court on March 23.

As per the notice to vacate the house sent by the Lok Sabha housing committee on March 27, the deadline was April 22. Two days before that, the Surat Sessions court rejected Rahul’s appeal to quash the conviction order of the trial court on April 20. The party will now file an appeal in the Gujarat high court and is prepared to approach the Supreme Court, if needed. “The Sessions court order is erroneous,” party leader and senior Supreme Court advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

The Congress has pointed out that the speed with which Rahul’s conviction, disqualification and house eviction notice came, showed that it was done as part of BJP’s conspiracy because the former party chief was asking tough questions of the Modi government and demanding a JPC probe into the Adani-Hindenburg issue.

The Congress has also said that the trial court order was questionable and argued that in a normal defamation case, Rahul should have been given a few months’ jail term and not a two-year sentence which caused his immediate disqualification from the Lok Sabha.

The party said that Rahul’s comments “How come all thieves had a Modi surname” made during a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar in 2019 were distorted. The party also countered the BJP’s charge that Rahul had defamed the entire OBC community by demanding that the Centre should conduct a caste census to determine the population of the OBCs and remove the cap of existing reservations.

The BJP said that it had nothing to do with the defamation case and that due procedures were being followed in the matter. However, the Congress protested the issue across the country and said it will continue to highlight the alleged targeting of its leader.

“We all should learn from Rahul Gandhi. He has shown that he has no attachment to a post or a house. He could have said sorry and sat down quietly. This would have allowed him to retain his Lok Sabha membership and the government house. But his priority is not to compromise on the principles and fight against what he believes is wrong,” Congress media head Pawan Khera said.

In support, various party leaders, including party chief Mallikarjun Kharge offered his official residence to Rahul and party sympathizers ran a nationwide campaign saying “mera ghar, Rahul ka ghar.” The party described Rahul as the son and brother of the people.