By: Shubham Ghosh
The Indian National Congress received a huge setback on Friday (24) as its former president Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha or Lower House of the Indian parliament following his conviction in a 2019 defamation case related to the surname of ‘Modi’.
In a notification issued the same day, the Lok Sabha secretariat said, “Shri Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March, 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”
Section 8(3) of the act says that a member of parliament who is convicted of any offence and sentenced for at least a couple of years attracts disqualification.
Senior Congress parliamentarian Manish Tewari slammed the move as “erroneous” and told NDTV that the Lok Sabha secretariat can not disqualify an MP. He said the president of the country has to do it in consultation with the Election Commission.
Another senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said it did not bode well for the country’s democracy.
In a tweet which included a picture of the notification, he said, “I’m stunned by this action and by its rapidity, within 24 hours of the court verdict and while an appeal was known to be in process. This is politics with the gloves off and it bodes ill for our democracy,” he tweeted.
I’m stunned by this action and by its rapidity, within 24 hours of the court verdict and while an appeal was known to be in process. This is politics with the gloves off and it bodes ill for our democracy. pic.twitter.com/IhUVHN3b1F
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 24, 2023
Congress units in several states across India launched protests on Friday morning, accusing the Narendra Modi government of political vendetta.
In the southern state of Karnataka, the local police detained state Congress chief DK Shivakumar and other party leaders and workers who protested against the verdict given against Gandhi by a court in Surat in the western state of Gujarat.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said Gandhi’s conviction came from an independent judiciary after the latter insulted the ‘Modis’ — which constitute an ‘other backward classes’ community, with his ‘thief’ remark. Gandhi alleged asked at an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka in April 2019 why all thieves had the surname of Modi.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said while his party was seeking answers as to who ran away with people’s money, the ruling party was trying to distract from the main issue.
“They are talking of insult to backward classes. The Congress has always stood with and fought for the backward classes, scheduled castes and minorities. These people, who believe in Manu, talk of backward classes,” Kharge was quoted as saying.