New Delhi: Even as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reacted to his disqualification as Lok Sabha MP following his conviction by a Surat court in a 2019 defamation case by stating that he was “fighting for India’s voice, ready to pay any price”, several Opposition leaders have criticised the move terming it undemocratic.
Several Congress leaders slammed the move and accused the Narendra Modi government of “killing democracy”.
Sharing a copy of the notification announcing Gandhi’s disqualification, former Union minister and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “I’m stunned by this action and by its rapidity, within 24 hours of the court verdict and while an appeal was known to be in process. This is politics with the gloves off and it bodes ill for our democracy.”
He also took a dig at the BJP which has been protesting over Gandhi’s alleged remarks in the United Kingdom by adding in another tweet: “Ironic: Rahul Gandhi only tried to convey the state of Indian democracy to a British audience. The BJP government, though, through its actions, decided to reveal its bare condition to the whole world.”
Senior Congress leader and Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also asked why the government was avoiding a probe into the Adani issue. “Nirav Modi scam–Rs 14,000 crore; Lalit Modi scam–Rs 425 crore; and Mehul Choksi scam–Rs 13,500 crore. Why is the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) shielding the corrupt? Why is the government running away from an investigation in Adani-Hindenburg row?”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the action against Gandhi “condemnable”. In a tweet, he urged people to “resist and defeat such authoritarian assaults”.
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. pic.twitter.com/zJV8Y6cEs1
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) March 24, 2023
Rajya Sabha MP and deputy leader of Shiv Sena (UBT) Priyanka Chaturvedi termed the action against Gandhi as “vindictive and shameful”.
Vindictive and shameful action against Sh Rahul Gandhi. This disqualification yet again proves that we are living in the times of caged democracy.
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) March 24, 2023
Former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray reacted to the disqualification of Gandhi by saying that it will mark “the beginning of the end of dictatorship”. He was quoted by the news agency ANI as saying, “Calling a thief, a thief has become a crime in our country. Thieves & looters are still free & Rahul Gandhi was punished. This is a direct murder of democracy. All govt systems are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of the dictatorship. Only the fight has to be given direction.”
The news agency also quoted Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) president and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao as terming the action against Gandhi “the height of Narendra Modi’s arrogance and shame”.
“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 BJP… pic.twitter.com/ksXxtVNYPQ
— ANI (@ANI) March 24, 2023
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Chowdhury also tweeted her party’s criticism of the disqualification describing it as “the last nail in the coffin for constitutional freedoms in India”.
The AITC strongly condemn the developments that have unfolded. @RahulGandhi ‘s disqualification is the last nail in the coffin for constitutional freedoms in India.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) March 24, 2023
Samajwadi Party chief, who has been critical of the Congress party, has also extended his support to Rahul Gandhi. If he said if an “honest” investigation were to take place, many BJP leaders should be declared disqualified for their speeches and comments. He said action against Gandhi is aimed at diverting people’s attention from pressing issues such as inflation, unemployment, and cronyism under the BJP’s watch.
Tamil Nadu chief minister described the move against Gandhi as an “attack on the progressive democratic forces” of the country. “This intimidating tone of action appears to send a message across that even the leader of the national political party and MP does not have the democratic right to express his opinion,” he said, according to NDTV.
Stalin said the BJP is unnerved by the support Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra has drawn. “This shows the extent to which the BJP leadership is scared of Rahul Gandhi. This is due to the huge impact Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra had created among the people. The Centre is unable to reply to the issues raised by Gandhi in Parliament. They had disqualified him fearing that his continued presence in the Parliament would cause a political crisis for the BJP.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Manoj Jha, wrote on Twitter, “#LatestMedicalUpdate .. Democracy is declared dead…RIP” . In another tweet, he wrote: Ironically it comes from a GENTLEMAN who went on to say..Goli Maro Salo Ko…(गोली मारो सालों को ..)..this is a report card about ‘Health of Democracy’….Jai Hind.”
Describing Gandhi’s disqualification as a “violent attack on democracy”, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the “hasty” decision to disqualify Gandhi is the “latest chapter” in the Sangh Parivar’s assault on democracy. “Suppressing dissent by force is a fascist method,” Vijayan said in a statement, according to NewsClick.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from Punjab called the action against Gandhi “arbitrary” and said it is not in the interest of a healthy democracy and is against the principle of natural justice, according to The Statesman.
Calling the move “hasty”, SAD, in a statement, said the Congress leader should have been given appropriate time to appeal against the court order and the Lok Sabha Speaker should have resisted invoking his powers to disqualify Gandhi in this manner. “This gives the impression that the Central government is conducting itself in a partisan and dictatorial manner,” SAD said.