India’s opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was expelled from parliament on Thursday after being sentenced to two years in prison for defamation.
In a statement released on Friday, the House of Representatives Secretariat said Gandhi, who represented Kerala’s Wayanad parliamentary constituency, was disqualified due to his recent conviction. [pdf]
The conviction stems from an incident related to Gandhi’s 2019 speech, in which he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and two fugitive businessmen named Modi, who spoke of corruption.
“Why do all the thieves have the surname Modi?” Gandhi said during his campaign in Karnataka, referring to diamond tycoon Nirakh Modi, cricket executive Lalit Modi and the prime minister. Told.
The lawsuit was brought by Paanesh Modi, a lawmaker from West Gujarat’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), claiming that Gandhi defamed the entire Modi community with his comments. Gandhi pleaded not guilty.
Under Indian law, a conviction and a sentence of more than two years’ imprisonment is grounds for expulsion from parliament, but Gandhi has been released on bail for 30 days and plans to appeal.
‘I’m fighting for the voice of this country. I don’t care what the price is,’ says 52-year-old politician I have written on Twitter on Friday.
His lawyer, Kirit Panwala, said Gandhi did not intend to denigrate anyone in the community, but rather to expose the prime minister’s “misdeeds.” report.
“Gandhi said in court that as the leader of the opposition it was his duty to highlight the prime minister’s misconduct and indeed he did so by mentioning his surname, but as far as other Modi is concerned , he didn’t have anything…with intent to defame.”
Conspiracy to eliminate the opposition
The actions against Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, were widely condemned by Modi’s opponents as the latest attack on democracy and free speech by the ruling government seeking to quell dissent.
Arvind Kejriwal, prime minister of Delhi and national convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said the ruling party was plotting to remove non-BJP leaders and political parties through prosecutions.
“What is happening in this country today is very dangerous. By eliminating the opposition, they want to create a one country one party environment. This is called a dictatorship,” Kejriwal said. Said On Twitter, he called on people to unite for democracy in India.
Modi’s critics say India’s democracy, the world’s largest with a population of nearly 1.4 billion, has been in retreat since he first came to power in 2014. They accuse his populist government of being devoted to pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda, an accusation the Modi government denies.
“They want to silence those who tell the truth. The people will not tolerate this dictatorship. They even go to prison to defend their democracy.” Said Twitter video.
Removing Gandhi from politics has dealt a heavy blow to his Indian National Congress party ahead of next year’s national elections.
Gandhi’s family produced three prime ministers, including his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru. Two of his, his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv Gandhi, were assassinated while in office.
Gandhi has positioned himself as a major challenger to the Modi government, but his Indian National Congress party has struggled in the last two general elections. He has tried in recent months to win over voters by raising the issue of corruption and accusing the Modi government of damaging the reputation of India’s democracy.
Late last year, Gandhi led a popular “Unity March” across large parts of India, rallying crowds against the Modi government and the rising Hindu nationalism under his leadership.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.