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Opposition parties rally around Rahul Gandhi; BJP calls his disqualification lawful

NEW DELHI: Leaders of almost all opposition parties on Friday rallied around Rahul Gandhi, after he was disqualified from the Lok Sabha following his conviction by a Gujarat court, and accused the BJP of doing ”vindictive politics.” The Congress said it will fight the battle legally and politically for its former president. It was supported in its protest by parties such as TMC, AAP, Samajwadi Party, DMK, and BRS, which had earlier said they would maintain equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat on Friday disqualified Gandhi as MP from Wayanad in Kerala a day after a Surat court convicted him in a 2019 criminal defamation case for his remark ”How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” According to disqualification rules, he would not be able to contest elections for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction and sentence. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose party, TMC, has been at odds with the Congress over remarks made by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and has been absent in opposition marches held over the last few weeks, too reacted strongly against Gandhi’s disqualification.

”In PM (Narendra) 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,” Banerjee tweeted.

”Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy,” she added. Meanwhile, BJP leaders, while criticising Gandhi over his remarks allegedly against the OBC community, stuck to the explanation that his disqualification was a result of a court order and not a political call. The party suggested that a conspiracy within the Congress might have played a role in its leaders’ not approaching a higher court for relief for Gandhi after his conviction as it had done so in the case of Pawan Khera within hours of the Assam Police arresting him.

Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Anurag Thakur also hit out at the Congress, saying the Nehru-Gandhi family suffers from ”feudal mindset” and a ”sense of entitlement” as its members believe in a separate set of laws and democratic system for themselves.

”Law is equal for everyone,” Pradhan told reporters at a press conference, accusing Gandhi of ”abusing” backward castes with his ”thieves” jibe aimed at ”Modi surname.” Union Minister of State for Law and Justice S P S Baghel termed the disqualification ”lawful” as he too asserted that everyone is equal before the law.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the decision was a legal one and alleged that with its protest, the Congress was questioning the judiciary.

”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 Gandhi had got enough opportunities to explain himself and give evidence and that all rules were followed leading to his disqualification.

Support for Gandhi came from parties which have stood by the Congress through the last few weeks as the party led the opposition on the Adani issue. Voices of anger, shock and disbelief came from parties such as the RJD, JMM, CPI, CPI-M, Shiv Sena, DMK, and NCP, among others. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described Gandhi’s disqualification as shocking and called on the public to rise against the BJP’s ”arrogant” power.

”The expulsion of Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha is shocking. The country is passing through very difficult times. They have kept the whole country scared. 130 crore people will have to unite against their arrogant power,” he said in a tweet. The Congress said it was ”a black day for Indian democracy” and alleged that the action was driven by ”political vendetta.” Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav called for ”fighting on the street” against the BJP.

”The person who has alleged defamation should actually accuse those of it who betrayed their country and fled abroad, causing harm to their name and fame,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin termed Gandhi’s disqualification a ”death knell” for democracy as he accused BJP of being vengeful in its politics.

”The disqualification of @RahulGandhi 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,” he said in a tweet.

BRS Party National President and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said that the disqualification of Gandhi was a ”Black day” in the history of Indian democracy and shows the height of Narendra Modi’s ”arrogance and dictatorship.” ”Sri Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification is an attack on Democratic principles and Constitutional values of India. It reflects the autocratic and egoistic personality of Sri @narendramodi,” Rao said in a tweet sent through his party’s official handle.

”The Prime Minister has decimated almost all the constitutional institutions. He had been using all the investigating agencies against the political parties who are opposing his terrible and distressing regime.

”Today, the PM has demeaned the ‘Temple of Democracy’ i.e. the Indian Parliament, by disqualifying an opposition leader. It is a testing time for Constitutional values and Parliamentary Democracy,” the politician wrote, and accused the Modi government of hiding the ”largest con of corporate history.” ”It’s time all the opposition parties, keeping aside their differences, condemn this undemocratic and unparliamentary measure,” Rao added.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the disqualification of Gandhi was a ”vendetta battle” and it had exposed the reality of ”Amrit Kaal.” ”The disqualification of Lok Sabha membership of Shri @RahulGandhiji demonstrates how political differences are now vendetta battles for ruling Central Government. In today’s Amrit Kaal Opposition leaders are unilateral targets of BJP, being coerced and silenced using every tool of power,” he said in the first of a series of tweets.

”It is clearly evident that Amrit Kaal in New India applies only to leaders and members of BJP. Whereas for the entire Opposition and citizens of this country, it is Apaat Kaal,” Soren said.

NCP leader Supriya Sule tweeted, ”Totally Disappointing. First P P Mohammed Faizal, Now @RahulGandhi.” Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena (UBT) party, dubbed Gandhi’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. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, ”It’s condemnable that the BJP is now using the criminal defamation route to target opposition leaders and disqualify them as done with @RahulGandhi now.”

”This comes on top of the gross misuse of ED/CBI against the opposition. Resist and defeat such authoritarian assaults,” the veteran Left leader said in a tweet. RJD leader Manoj Jha said there is no bigger blot on parliamentary democracy in history than Gandhi’s disqualification. Jha said Gandhi’s fear that democracy was under threat in India has been proved right by the government. ”The BJP has no respect for democracy in its heart, word and action,” he alleged, and called for a unity among opposition parties to dismantle this ”dictatorship.” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed Gandhi’s disqualification a ”violent attack on democracy” by the Sangh Parivar.

”Suppressing dissent by force is a fascist method,” Vijayan said in a statement.

BSP MP Kunwar Danish Ali termed Gandhi’s disqualification unfortunate, and said if the MPs were to lose their membership on such matters as defamation, then 70 per cent of parliamentarians will lose their membership, mostly from the BJP, he claimed.

”If such an issue becomes a yardstick to disqualify an MP, then filing defamation cases will become a means to strip lawmakers of their membership,” Ali said.


Source: Press Trust of India

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