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India opposition display rare unity after Rahul Gandhi disqualification as MP: ‘Murder of democracy’

Opposition MPs stage a protest in Lok Sabha of Indian parliament in support of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his disqualification as the MP in New Delhi on Friday, March 24, 2023. (ANI Photo/Sansad TV)

By: Shubham Ghosh

India’s opposition parties on Friday (24) reacted sharply to the disqualification of Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his disqualification from the post of the member of parliament following his conviction on a defamation case related to the ‘Modi’ surname and two-year jail sentence by a court in the western state of Gujarat.

A number of parties expressed solidarity to Gandhi despite their differences with the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and one of the fiercest critics of prime minister Narendra Modi, said opposition leaders have become the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime target in Modi’s “new India”.

“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,” Banerjee said.

It was only recently that the Bengal chief minister expressed disappointment over the non-functioning of the Indian parliament due to arguments between the ruling party and opposition over Gandhi’s recent remarks made in the UK targeting the Modi government. She called Gandhi “Modi’s biggest TRP”.

AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, who is also the chief minister of Delhi, tore into the central leadership over the court order convicting Gandhi and the parliament’s Lower House quick move to disqualify the parliamentarian from the southern state of Kerala.

“They want to create such an environment that there is only one party and only one leader left in the country. They want all the other leaders and parties to be finished. This is called dictatorship,” Kejriwal was quoted as saying by NDTV.

“But today’s government under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi is more dangerous than the British rule. This is not just a Congress fight. This is a fight to save the country,” he said.

The AAP recently accused the BJP of conspiring after Delhi’s former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia was arrested in a liquor policy scam case.

Uddhav Thackeray, who leads the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), called Gandhi’s disqualification “murder” of democracy and added that it was the beginning of the end of “dictatorship”.

“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, who recently lost the Sena to Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, said.

Manoj Jha of Bihar’s ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal called the Congress leader’s disqualification “shameful and unfortunate”.

Asking where Indian democracy was headed to, Communist Party of India parliamentarian Binoy Viswam asked, “For a speech made in Kolar, case in Surat, that too after how many years? Anybody of their dislike can be booked for whatever reason they decide! Today it is Rahul Gandhi, tomorrow it can be you or me. Time to unite in defence of democracy,” he said.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat disqualified the Congress MP representing Kerala a day after a court in Surat convicted him in the defamation case and sentenced him to two years in jail, while also providing a bail for 30 days to appeal the decision.

“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it,” Gandhi tweeted in his first remark after the verdict.

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