Rahul Gandhi’s expulsion from the Lok Sabha might have become inevitable following his conviction and two-year sentence in a defamation case. The Surat judge who pronounced the order probably had no option but to convict him. Even when there was an opportunity available for him to express regret for the ill-advised statement from a public forum during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign the Gandhi scion displayed a streak of arrogance, refusing to make amends. Therefore, the judge had no other course available but to convict him and prescribe the two-year sentence. That was the judicial process. But the political process that emanated from his conviction did not at all prescribe his expulsion from the Lok Sabha with such supersonic speed. Heavens would not have fallen had the relevant authorities waited for him to seek redressal from a higher court. As is most likely, an appeal to stay the conviction will certainly be filed within the court-prescribed 30 days.
The expulsion could generate a modicum of sympathy for Rahul though it is hard to see how he can repeat the feat of his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, who after her expulsion from the Lok Sabha for a breach of privilege of the House had returned triumphant, winning the Chikamagalur by-election. That was in 1978. The ruling Janata Party was a hydra-headed animal notionally led by Morarji Desai, with several ambitious leaders pulling the government in diverse directions. The ruling party is now firmly entrenched in the governing system with Prime Minister Modi in full control both of government and the party. Besides, Rahul woefully lacks the charisma and political skills of Indira Gandhi. Yes, he will try and protest loudly that his expulsion is aimed at stifling his voice so that he cannot bring up the Adani affair.
The Gujarati industrialist whose fortunes took a stratospheric turn, especially since 2014, and witnessed a steep fall following a recent report by the Hindenburg Research, an American short-seller, is accused by Rahul and others in the Opposition of exploiting his proximity to Modi for his super-fast growth in the last eight years. But whether he broke any law, or merely exploited the alleged proximity to PM to get access to institutional funding and other related clearances for setting up projects has not been proven. Another Gujarati industrial group was similarly accused of achieving extraordinary rise in the corporate sweepstakes thanks to the patronage of the Congress governments in the 70s and 80s and in the UPA decade. The problem is that even after his expulsion from the Lok Sabha Rahul is unlikely to find few takers for his fulminations. If anything, the expulsion may be the last chance for him to shed his Pappu image and emerge as a serious leader with an ability to grasp things in the right perspective. His rambling monologues reveal him to be a scatterbrain, unable to comprehend matters even in a commonsensical way.
Meanwhile, the hope in the non-Congress camp that his expulsion clears the way for a Mamata Banerjee or a K Chandrashekhar or an Arvind Kejriwal or, for that matter, even Nitish Kumar to emerge as the foremost leader of the always-in-the-works-but-never-ready united front to take on Modi in 2024 will be hard to realise. For, instead of withdrawing himself from active politics following expulsion from Lok Sabha, Rahul’s claim to lead the Opposition may have been further strengthened. Fully in control of the Congress, he will insist on leading the Opposition in any potential united front. Maybe that is why Mamata Banerjee suspects a ruling party design in constantly targeting Rahul, just so he alone remains the face of the anti-Modi forces in the polity. And given that any contest which pits Modi versus Rahul as prime minister is still a no-brainer. The ruling party might have done its sums while ejecting him out of the Lok Sabha so mercilessly, using a provision in law whose excision was vehemently opposed by none other than Rahul himself in 2013.
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