Rahul Gandhi, whose disqualification from the Lok Sabha was widely seen as political vendetta, returned as a member on Monday after 137 days.
Celebrations started in the Congress as the Lok Sabha secretariat issued the circular reinstating his membership before Parliament met in the morning, ending the uncertainty over Rahul’s participation in the debate on the no-confidence motion scheduled to start on Tuesday.
After the Supreme Court on Friday stayed Rahul’s conviction in a defamation case that had led to his disqualification, the Congress had been demanding his immediate reinstatement and projecting the delay as a sign that the government didn’t want him to speak in Parliament after his no-holds-barred attack on Narendra Modi’s relations with businessman Gautam Adani.
This time, Rahul is expected to share with the Prime Minister the Congress MP’s experience of visiting Manipur.
Prime Minister Modi has so far chosen to stay away from the strife-torn state. The Congress leader spent two days in Manipur in June, visiting relief camps to meet people displaced by the violence. More than 180 people have died and around 60,000 have fled their homes.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi pays tribute at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in New Delhi on Monday. PTI Photo
The very reason for bringing the no-confidence motion was to force the Prime Minister to address the issue in Parliament after his inexplicable reluctance to speak or even tweet about the plight of the people in Manipur, where violence began on May 3.
Modi finally spoke only on July 20 after a video showing two women being paraded naked and physically harassed by a mob became viral on social media and the Supreme Court intervened. Even then, in a two-minute bite to the media before walking into Parliament, he spoke of how the country had been shamed by the incident and appeared to equate the ethnic violence in Manipur with crimes against women in Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Rahul had then reacted to Modi’s comment with this tweet: “Prime Minister, the issue is not that it’s a shame for the country. The issue is the immense pain and trauma inflicted on the women of Manipur. Stop the violence immediately.”
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi with his mother and party MP Sonia Gandhi at Parliament House complex during Monsoon Session in New Delhi on Monday. PTI Photo
This no-confidence motion comes ahead of critical elections in five states and the parliamentary election later next year, and Rahul’s speech is expected to set the tone for the future battles. The curiosity over Rahul’s participation will ensure the Opposition gets some media space, which otherwise would have been completely grabbed by the Prime Minister.Rahul will also be under abnormal pressure of expectations.
The entire Opposition combine — INDIA — welcomed Rahul in the House with great fanfare. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge was seen feeding sweets to INDIA leaders with his own hands, signalling an emotional bonding with his younger colleague. All the Congress MPs stood at the gate, shouting slogans when Rahul got off the car. The hashtag Rahul-is-back trended on Twitter for several hours.
Rahul first went to Mahatma Gandhi’s statue on the premises to pay homage and then entered the House. The BJP was ready with a plan to spoil the occasion and Nishikant Dubey launched an ugly diatribe, accusing the Congress of having a secret nexus with China.
The Wayanad MP heard him quietly but the Congress social media head Supriya Shrinate rained questions related to China on the BJP, asking them to address the valid concerns instead of levelling wild and baseless allegations. Kharge asked the Modi government to concentrate the time left in this tenure on governance instead of targeting political opponents.