New Delhi : Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha as an attempt to silence his voice by the Centre against whom the leader had been asking tough questions and said the party will launch nationwide protests over the issue.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha a day after he was given a two-year jail term by a Surat court on March 23 in a 2019 defamation case involving his remarks on PM Modi.
Rahul Gandhi had mentioned the names of fugitives Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi along with that of PM Modi to wonder “how was it possible that all the thieves had a common surname Modi” in a speech made during the 2019 Lok Sabha poll campaign in Karnataka’s Kolar district.
The defamation case was then filed by former Surat MLA and ex-minister Purnesh Modi taking objection to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks. According to the BJP leader, Rahul had defamed the entire Modh or Modi community through his remarks.
The jail-term gave fodder to the ruling BJP whose president JP Nadda attacked the former Congress chief saying he had insulted the backward classes. Rahul was granted a bail for 30 days and the Congress said it would appeal to get a stay on conviction in the Sessions Court, High Court and even Supreme Court, if needed.
The entire Congress came out in support of Rahul Gandhi, who invoked Mahatma Gandhi to say that his fight for truth would go on. The Congress said Rahul’s conviction was both a legal and a political issue and staged nationwide protests against the targeting of their leader as part of Centre’s vendetta politics.
The disqualification came amidst a confrontation between the ruling BJP and main opposition Congress which paralyzed Parliament.
When the second half of the Budget Session of Parliament opened on March 13, both the treasury and the opposition benches adopted hard postures against each other over various issues.
The opposition accused the ruling party of deliberately disrupting the Parliament to avoid demand of a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the alleged links between PM Modi and businessman Gautam Adani.
The BJP and the Centre in turn accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of defaming Indian democracy abroad and said the Lok Sabha member should first apologize.
The core of the BJP’s attack was that Rahul had said in London that democracy had been damaged in India over the past years and that the Western powers should intervene to save the situation.
The Centre’s attack provoked the Congress to allege that it was PM Modi who had earlier defamed the country abroad and should tender an apology first. To prove its charge, the Congress released a series of old video clips showing the PM saying that earlier Indians were ashamed to be born in the country.
The Congress also claimed that Rahul had said nothing wrong during his recent visit to the United Kingdom and that the Centre was deliberately twisting his remarks to target the former party president, who was asking tough questions from the government.
Concerned over the impasse, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior ministers conferred with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. Later, the Finance Bill that gives effect to tax proposals for fiscal year starting April 1 was passed without a discussion amidst ruckus by opposition members demanding a JPC probe into the allegations against the Adani group of companies.
In fact, the Congress-BJP rivalry had started during the first half of the Budget Session when the Congress-led opposition disrupted the two houses for days over the Adani-Hindenburg issue.
The government argued that the Supreme Court had already appointed an expert committee which was looking into the issue and therefore a JPC probe was not needed in the matter.
The opposition argued that the SC panel was only probing the Hindenburg report which had questioned the functioning of the Adani Group and the resultant meltdown at the stock exchange had led to wealth worth billions of rupees belonging to small investors getting wiped. The opposition argued that the private businessman had benefited from his friendship with the PM and the link could only be investigated by a JPC.