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Opposition parties rally behind 'disqualified' Rahul

Mamata Banerjee leads charge, says BJP tenure has now seen a new low in constitutional democracy; Akhilesh, Uddhav, Yechury flay politics of vendetta

Sougata Mukhopadhyay Calcutta Published 24.03.23, 07:44 PM
Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi File picture

Has Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha, politically speaking, turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Congress party? Or so, many seem to believe, given the kind of Opposition support the leader garnered following his disqualification in the wake of a conviction in a 2019 criminal defamation case.

What’s interesting is that several opposition leaders who extended solidarity to the Congress leader on Friday had, hitherto, remained silent on the BJP-led union government's relentless criticism of Gandhi and his politics. The support for Gandhi began pouring in moments after the disqualification was announced.


Questions, naturally, were raised by political observers on whether the move has managed to end up in achieving just the opposite to what the BJP had aspired: isolate the Congress in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The support, doubtless, adds an interesting dimension to national politics dynamics ahead of the general elections next year, especially at a time when regional Opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee are sending out overt indications of forming a joint Opposition platform excluding the Congress.

Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee was among the first to register her protest against the disqualification. “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,” she tweeted.

The party’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee followed suit. “DEMOCRATIC INDIA is an OXYMORON now. #ripdemocracy,” his tweet read.

Trinamul’s leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien, en route to Calcutta, wasted no time in recording a video message at the Delhi airport. “The BJP is desperate to silence the voice of the Opposition. We know they are desperate, we know they want to silence voices and go to all kinds of lows for that. But this is the lowest of the lows since 1950. It’s the lowest point in parliamentary democracy in its entire history,” he said.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who met Mamata Banerjee in Calcutta last week and announced his resolve for an Opposition front minus the Congress, said: “Defamation of the country, defamation of the public, defamation of harmony, defamation of the Constitution, defamation of the economy. I don't know how many types of defamation cases could be filed against the BJP if we were to take a look at their past. The BJP, which secures its political future by implicating the Opposition in frivolous cases, is scared of the power of the Opposition.”

A tweet from CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, sounding similar to the stands taken by the TMC and SP, read: “It’s condemnable that the BJP is now using the criminal defamation route to target Opposition leaders and disqualify them as done with @RahulGandhi now. This comes on top of the gross misuse of ED/CBI against the opposition. Resist and defeat such authoritarian assaults.”

Former Maharashtra chief minister and a one-time ally of the BJP Uddhav Thackeray chipped in. “Calling a thief, a thief has become a crime in our country. Thieves and looters are still free and Rahul Gandhi was punished. This is a murder of democracy. All government systems are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of dictatorship. Only the fight has to be given direction,” news agency ANI quoted the leader as saying.

"We will fight this battle both legally & politically. We will not be intimidated or silenced. Instead of a JPC into the PM-linked Adani MahaMegaScam, Rahul Gandhi stands disqualified. Indian Democracy Om Shanti," tweeted Congress General Secretary in-charge of communications, Jairam Ramesh.

You can remove Rahul Gandhi from the seat of Parliament but it is impossible to remove him from the seat given in the heart of crores of Indians. I despise BJP’s anti-democratic attitude,” DK Shivakumar, Karnataka Congress president, tweeted.

“The country is witnessing the politics of vendetta being spearheaded by the Modi government against Rahul Gandhi. It’s a case of sheer retributive politics because Rahul Gandhi was gaining popularity in the wake of his Bharat Jodo Yatra which the Modi government could not digest. The BJP wanted his voice throttled and muzzled because if he was allowed to speak in Parliament, then they could have been dislodged from power,” added Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Bengal Pradesh Congress chief added.

But could these words of solidarity and criticism against the ruling dispensation in Centre, sounding strikingly similar in tone and tenor, eventually attract the diverse political forces on a unified platform? On that, the jury is out.

Arrogance of power

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described Gandhi's disqualification as shocking and called on the public to rise against the BJP's "arrogant" power, reports PTI.

"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 arrogant power," he said in a tweet.

'Death knell for democracy'

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin termed Gandhi's disqualification a "death knell" for democracy as he accused BJP of being vengeful in its politics.

"The disqualification of @RahulGandhi as MP before he could go for an appeal is death knell for democracy. The metamorphosis of BJP's vindictive politics into autocracy is happening at an alarming pace. If one goes by history, it is very clear what is in store for such autocrats," he said in a tweet.

Black Day

BRS Party National President and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said that the disqualification of Gandhi was a "Black day" in the history of Indian democracy and shows the height of Narendra Modi's "arrogance and dictatorship." "Sri Rahul Gandhi's disqualification is an attack on Democratic principles and Constitutional values of India. It reflects the autocratic and egoistic personality of Sri @narendramodi," Rao said in a tweet sent through his party's official handle.

"The Prime Minister has decimated almost all the constitutional institutions. He had been using all the investigating agencies against the political parties who are opposing his terrible and distressing regime.

Vendetta battle

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the disqualification of Gandhi was a "vendetta battle" and it had exposed the reality of "Amrit Kaal." "The disqualification of Lok Sabha membership of Shri @RahulGandhiji demonstrates how political differences are now vendetta battles for ruling Central Government. In today’s Amrit Kaal Opposition leaders are unilateral targets of BJP, being coerced and silenced using every tool of power," he said in the first of a series of tweets.

"It is clearly evident that Amrit Kaal in New India applies only to leaders and members of BJP. Whereas for the entire Opposition and citizens of this country, it is Apaat Kaal," Soren said.

Totally disappointing

NCP leader Supriya Sule tweeted, "Totally Disappointing. First P P Mohammed Faizal, Now @RahulGandhi." Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena (UBT) party, dubbed Gandhi's disqualification as "murder" of democracy and said this is the beginning of the end of "dictatorship." In a statement, Thackeray said it has become a crime to call a thief a thief, while those "looting" the country are out.

"This is the murder of democracy. All agencies are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of the dictatorship … the battle only needs a direction (now)," Thackeray said.

Biggest blot on parliamentary democracy

RJD leader Manoj Jha said there is no bigger blot on parliamentary democracy in history than Gandhi's disqualification.

Jha said Gandhi's fear that democracy was under threat in India has been proved right by the government. "The BJP has no respect for democracy in its heart, word and action," he alleged, and called for a unity among opposition parties to dismantle this "dictatorship." Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed Gandhi's disqualification a "violent attack on democracy" by the Sangh Parivar.

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