Prominent Indian politician and member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi, has been disqualified from parliament after being convicted in a criminal defamation case, which claimed he insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The former Indian National Congress (INC) party leader was sentenced to two years in prison by a Gujarat court for allegedly making comments about Modi's surname at an election rally in 2019.
Gandhi, who was present in court for sentencing, remains out of jail on bail for 30 days and will appeal. The 52-year-old politician faces the risk of not being able to contest national elections due in 2024 if his conviction is not suspended or overturned by a higher court before the elections.
Speaking after the decision made by India’s Lok Sabha, INC President Mallikarjun Kharge said: “Rahul [Gandhi’s] membership from Parliament has been cancelled only to speak the truth and to shut the mouth of those who fight for the rights of the people according to the principles of democracy.”
A Congress spokesperson said the party plans to challenge the judgement, and hopes that the conviction will be quashed. According to Indian news outlet ANI, Abhishek Manu Singhvi added: “We all know that Rahul Gandhi has been speaking out fearlessly both inside and outside the Parliament. Clearly, he is paying a price for it. The government is rattled. This government is finding new techniques to throttle his voice”. Here’s why Rahul Gandhi has been convicted and what he said:
What did Rahul Gandhi say about Narendra Modi?
In April 2019, Gandhi had said during a rally in Karnataka: "Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi." The speech referred to Nirav Modi, who was an Indian businessman and diamond merchant currently facing charges of fraud and money laundering in the country. He is accused of orchestrating a massive scam involving the state-run Punjab National Bank, resulting in losses of over $2 billion. Modi fled India in 2018 and was later arrested in the UK, where he is currently fighting extradition to India.
Lalit Modi was another businessman fighting extradition from London. He is known for being the founder and former chairman of the Indian Premier League (IPL), a professional Twenty20 cricket league in India. He has also been involved in various other business ventures, including the creation of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament. Modi has faced various controversies and legal issues, including charges of financial irregularities and money laundering. There are no connections between the individuals as it is a common surname in the state.
It is not the first instance of opposition MPs considered critical of India's government facing legal action. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday (22 March) accused the Modi government of being "dictatorial" after the Delhi Police registered 44 First Information Reports (FIRs) and arrested four people over posters which said “Get rid of Modi and save the country” were found pasted on walls and poles across the national capital.
After the verdict, Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, and non-violence the means to get it.”
Party: Indian National Congress Party
Rahul Gandhi is a prominent Indian politician and a member of the Indian National Congress party. He is the son of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, who is a former president of the Indian National Congress party.
He is also the grandson of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the great-grandson of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The 52-year-old has held various positions in the Indian National Congress party, including the post of party president from 2017 to 2019.
Gandhi is widely considered to be a key member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, which has played a prominent role in Indian politics since the country's independence in 1947.
Will Rahul Gandhi be able to contest elections?
The Representation of the People Act, 1951 in India contains provisions relating to disqualification of candidates and elected representatives in case of criminal convictions. Section 8 of the Act disqualifies a person from contesting elections if they have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years. A period of six years would need to have elapsed since the date of their release.
Gandhi represents the Wayanad constituency in the southern state of Kerala and was likely to go up against Modi when he seeks his third term as prime minister in 2024.