Congress calls Rahul Gandhi’s conviction a ‘simple vendetta’

RAhul Gandhi, the de facto leader of India’s main opposition party, was expelled from parliament after being found guilty of defamation on Thursday.

“These are flimsy and made-up accusations,” Indian National Congress spokesperson Praveen Chakravarty told TIME in a statement. Congress has accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of “outright blood feud” after Gandhi spoke out against Indian billionaire tycoon Gautam Adani in parliament.

A local court in the western state of Gujarat on Thursday convicted and sentenced Gandhi, 52, to two years in prison for a speech he gave at a campaign rally in 2019, in which he said “Why do all thieves have Modi as their last name?”

The congressional spokesperson told TIME that the party will pursue legal and political action. “We will appeal the conviction to the higher courts, but understand that the process is the punishment,” Chakravarty said. “We will address this problem with people through mass agitations and door-to-door contact programs.”

Gandhi’s remarks referred to the Prime Minister as well as Nirav Modi, a fugitive diamond tycoon, and Lalit Modi, the banned Indian Premier League founder. The defamation suit was filed by Purnesh Modi, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party, who said Gandhi’s comment “defamed the entire Modi community”.

Learn more: How a historic march could revive India’s opposition movement

Soon after, Gandhi was also expelled from the lower house of parliament and lost his seat as state representative for south Kerala. According to a official statement published Friday, his disqualification is due to Indian parliamentary rules, which stipulate that those convicted of a crime and sentenced to two years or more in prison cannot sit in the legislative body.

Gandhi will not serve any immediate jail time after the court grants him bail to appeal within 30 days. Gandhi can resume his parliamentary seat if he wins his appeal. However, if he loses, he will not be able to contest any Indian election for the next eight years.

“Mr. Gandhi remains steadfast and steadfast in his pursuit of truth and justice and will continue to fearlessly raise important issues against the Modi government,” Chakravarty said.

The BJP did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

The events precede a national election just over a year away, to be held in April and May 2024, which will see Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata party seek a third term.

Coming from a political dynasty that dominated Indian politics for decades, Gandhi resigned as chairman of the Congress party after the 2019 elections. Last year, the party appointed Mallikarjun Kharge as its new leader.

Although political analysts view Congress as unlikely to win the next election due to Modi’s continued popularity, Gandhi has nonetheless caught the attention of Indian voters in recent months. Last year he embarked on the months-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, or ‘Unite India March’, during which he traveled nearly 2,500 miles across the country in an attempt to reconnect with Indian voters .

In recent months, he has also delivered fiery speeches in parliament attacking the Modi administration for its close ties to Adani, who has been accused of pulling off ‘the biggest scam in the history of the company’ by the salesman short American Hindenburg in January. Gandhi took the opportunity of the Adani scandal to talk about India’s stagnant economy and high unemployment rate.

BJP lawmakers accused the Congress party of having a “feudal mindset” and “a sense of entitlement” for criticizing the sentencing. “The law is the same for everyone,” Indian Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters at a press conference. He also accused Gandhi of “abusing” oppressed castes by calling those with the Modi surname “thieves”.

Learn more: India’s manhunt for hardline Sikh leader leads to internet shutdowns and global protests

Legal experts in India have expressed surprise at the court’s verdict. Unlike the US and UK, defamation is a criminal offense in India, not a civil offence. On Twitter, a constitutionalist job that the libel charge against Gandhi could not be brought in court unless an individual showed a direct reference to himself, rather than a “generic class of people”.

Apar Gupta, executive director of an Indian non-profit organization, the Internet Freedom Foundation, job on Twitter: “The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi for a conviction in a criminal defamation case is another blow to Indian democracy. You don’t even have to like him as a person or support his politics to understand him.

He continued: “Colonial law has been twisted and used as a weapon to target a member of the opposition and bar him from participating in Parliament. ”

The Congress Party said it was confident that Gandhi would get a stay of his sentence in court. “We retain our faith in the Indian justice system and are confident that the truth will prevail,” Chakravarty told TIME.

More must-reads from TIME

contact us at


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button