Leaders of opposition parties rally around Rahul Gandhi

Bhopal: Youth Congress supporters stop a train during a protest against Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha, at Rani Kamalpati Railway Station in Bhopal, Friday, Friday, March 24, 2023. (PTI Photo)(PTI03_24_2023_000252A)

New Delhi, March 24: 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.” “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. (PTI)