United Opposition vs BJP: Rahul Gandhi's Lok Sabha disqualification kickstarts 2024 General Election campaign

United Opposition vs BJP: Rahul Gandhi's Lok Sabha disqualification kickstarts 2024 General Election campaign

Within 24 hours of being convicted by the Surat Court in the defamation case, the Lok Sabha secretariat cancelled Gandhi's membership of the Lower house.

Tejas JoshiUpdated: Friday, March 24, 2023, 06:48 PM IST
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Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha | ANI

Rahul Gandhi, the former Congress President and Wayanad MP, was disqualified as a Lok Sabha member on Friday. This comes just one day after he was convicted in the 'Modi surname' defamation case. The Gandhi scion was disqualified under the provisions of Article 102 (1) (e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act for making a comment during the 2019 general election campaign against the 'Modi' community.

The disqualification comes after several attempts to corner the Congress leader. Initially, following his speech in parliament on the Adani-Hindenburg dispute, then over his comments in Cambridge, United Kingdom, on India's democracy, and now in a defamation case filed in 2019 over a comment referring to the 'Modi' surname. The Modi government, whether intentionally or unintentionally, has made sure that Rahul stays the point of focus. Only time will tell whether this is a planned strategy by the BJP or a strategic blunder.

𝗚𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗵𝗶❜𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗠𝗣

There is now an argument in favour of Gandhi being disqualified as Lok Sabha MP. That he, who has been convicted for two years under Representation of The People Act (RP Act), should immediately be disqualified. The BJP is even reminding Rahul Gandhi of tearing apart the ordinance of the bill in 2014, in which he has been convicted now.

Within 24 hours of being convicted by the Surat Court in the defamation case, the Lok Sabha secretariat cancelled Gandhi's membership of the Lower house.

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗔𝗰𝘁 𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗥𝗮𝗵𝘂𝗹 𝗚𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗵𝗶❜𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻

In 2013, the Supreme Court had invalidated section 8(4) of the Representation of The People Act (RP Act) through the Lily Thomas vs Union Bank of India case. This provision allowed convicted lawmakers to hold their positions if they filed appeals within three months of the conviction. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had made efforts to bypass the Supreme Court's decision and nullify the RP Act provision in the same year.

On September 28, 2013, it was Gandhi who spoke out against the ordinance during a press conference and symbolically ripped it apart as a form of protest.

The RP Act states that an individual convicted and sentenced to two or more years in prison will be ineligible "from the date of such conviction," and will be barred for an additional six years after serving their sentence. Section 8 of the RP Act lists the crimes that would disqualify a lawmaker upon conviction.

However, in this case, the court had suspended the judgement convicting Gandhi for 30 days and allowed him to appeal in the upper courts. He was still disqualified as an MP.

𝗢𝗽𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗕𝗲𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀

In practical terms, Rahul Gandhi's conviction in the case, followed by his disqualification, seems to be benefiting the Congress party. Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee, the two major obstacles to uniting the opposition under Gandhi's name, have already expressed support.

Mamata Banerjee, taking to Twitter on Friday after Gandhi's disqualification, wrote: "In PM Modi’s New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches. Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy."

Kejriwal expresses 'shock'

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter: "The expulsion of Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha is shocking. The country is passing through very difficult times. They have kept the whole country scared. 130 crore people will have to unite against their arrogance of power."

The Opposition parties' support to Congress displays realisation on their part that to resist BJP's onslaught against their leaders through enforcement agencies, they will need a give a united fight under a superior leadership.

Black Day in the history of Indian democracy: KCR

In response to the news, BRS President and Telangana Chief Minister KC Rao stated, "Today is a Black Day in the history of Indian democracy." Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Parliament is the height of Narendra Modi's arrogance and dictatorship...This is not the time for conflicts between parties. All democrats should openly condemn the misdeeds of the BJP government to safeguard democracy and constitutional values in the country."

𝗔𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗳𝗶𝘁 𝗚𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗵𝗶 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀

Gandhi is making news and will continue to do so until there's a conclusive end to the defamation case in the High Court or the Supreme Court.

However, by taking the step of disqualifying him, the Modi government has kickstarted the intense campaign that will now unfold in the lead up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

The Congress now will try to capitalise on the 'footage' offered to Gandhi by ruling regime. It will also be in a better position to bring all opposition parties to table for negotiations before general elections.

Gandhi's disqualification, meanwhile, could possibly be stayed by higher courts. If not that, the sentence could also be reduced, which will reinstate Gandhi's membership of parliament.

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