Reactions to India’s Rahul Gandhi losing parliament seat

Opposition leaders condemn Gandhi’s disqualification and accuse PM Narendra Modi’s government of ‘killing democracy’.

Rahul Gandhi supporters
Congress party supporters hold placards during a silent protest in Mumbai against the conviction of Rahul Gandhi [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

India’s parliament has disqualified prominent member of the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, following his conviction in a defamation case linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname.

Gandhi, 52, “stands disqualified from the membership” of the parliament, a notice issued by the house said on Friday.

Gandhi on Thursday was found guilty for a 2019 speech in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi.

He made the comment while campaigning ahead of the last general election, which Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won with a landslide.

Rahul Gandhi
Gandhi waves at supporters at New Delhi airport after he appeared before a court in Surat in the western state of Gujarat on Thursday [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

It is one of the highest profile disqualifications of a sitting legislator in the South Asian country.

Here are some of the reactions to Gandhi losing MP status:

Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP

Member of parliament and renowned author Shashi Tharoor said he was “stunned” by the decision despite an appeal against the verdict

“This is politics with the gloves off and it bodes ill for our democracy,” he tweeted.

Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress president

Kharge said the Modi government was “most afraid of Rahul Gandhi and Congress party”.

“For killing democracy, they have cancelled the parliament membership of Mr Gandhi. They want to silence those who speak the truth. Countrymen will not tolerate this dictatorship.”

Uddhav Thackeray, ex-Maharashtra chief minister

The opposition leader and former chief minister of Maharashtra state, said “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 direct murder of democracy. All government systems are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of dictatorship,” he said.

Rana Ayyub, journalist

Kiren Rijiju, BJP MP

India’s Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju expressed disappointment that people were defending Gandhi.

“Rahul Gandhi made very derogatory remark and disgraced an entire OBC (other backward class) Community,” he tweeted.

“We can’t blame all Gandhi surnames just because Rahul Gandhi insulted Indian democracy, our Armed forces & India’s Institutions.”

Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal chief minister

“In PM Modi’s New India, opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP!,” Banerjee said on social media.

“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.”

Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shiv Sena-UBT MP

The member of parliament from Mumbai said the move to disqualify Gandhi was “vindictive and shameful”.

“This disqualification yet again proves that we are living in the times of caged democracy.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies