Will Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament provide momentum for opposition unity in India? | Pro IQRA News

Will Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament provide momentum for opposition unity in India?

 | Pro IQRA News

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sA series of chaos unfolded in the heart of India’s capital this week as police set up barricades and assaulted hundreds of politicians and lawmakers protesting Rahul Gandhi’s expulsion from the seat of India’s Parliament of Democracy.

Members of the Congress Party, India’s largest opposition party, gathered in front of Delhi’s iconic Red Fort to protest Gandhi’s removal – an issue that drew rare unanimous condemnation from the country’s majority of opposition parties.

Slogans calling for the protection of democracy were raised in the air, as well as chants against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The demonstrators sat in front of a number of police cars carrying detained party workers.

Jab jab Modi darta hai, police ko aagey karta hai (Whenever Modi is afraid, he uses the police to suppress dissent),” the demonstrators shouted as the police used force to clear the way.

“This is not a fight for Rahul Gandhi. This is the fight to save the Indian constitution,” says Congress worker Mathura Prasad Khushuaha, as he tries to identify with the police as they try to arrest him. “It won’t just affect me. It will affect you and your children. “We’re fighting for their rights, too,” he says from the window of the police car into which he was pushed.

Gandhi lost his seat in the House of Representatives last week after a court found him guilty of defamation over his remarks about Modi’s surname. Indian parliamentary rules state that a member loses his seat if he is convicted of an offense and sentenced to two years or more in prison.

Members of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) stand guard in front of the Red Fort during a protest rally by the Indian Congress Party against the conviction of Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case, in New Delhi on March 28, 2023.

(AFP via Getty Images)

“Why do all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi names?” Gandhi had said during a rally in the southern state of Karnataka in 2019 while referring to a businessman, a former president of the Indian Premier League and the Indian prime minister respectively.

Congressmen, including party deputies, planned to hold torches in their hands and stage a rally, but were denied permission and faced a subsequent police crackdown. “We don’t have the right to protest here now?” asks Mukesh Rai, a Congress worker. “Isn’t this our country? We can’t ask questions from the government? Is it democratic or authoritarian?”

As many as 96 people have been arrested, according to the Press Trust of India news agency, quoting Deputy Commissioner of Police Sagar Singh Kalsi.

All those arrested have been released, but the anger remains.

Police detain activists and supporters of the Indian Congress Party during a protest rally against the conviction of Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case, in New Delhi on March 28, 2023.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Gandhi’s expulsion came after he and other opposition party leaders demanded an investigation by a joint parliamentary committee over a report of alleged multi-billion dollar stock price manipulation and fraud by the Adani Group, run by billionaire Gautam Adani. Al-Adani is often accused of taking advantage of his closeness to Prime Minister Modi.

Adani’s group denied any wrongdoing.

“I think what this government has done by expelling Rahul Gandhi from Parliament is to send a signal to all opposition parties that they can go to any extent to destroy and disrupt them,” says Apoorvanand, Professor in the Indian Department of the College of Arts, University of Delhi.

“I feel the opposition parties have now realized that any pretext can be used to deny them all programmes,” he says, explaining the impact of Gandhi’s expulsion on parliamentary politics.

Parliament was a forum in which I felt safe. But now this is also not available to parties.”

It is also a rare case of conviction in a criminal defamation case when the defamed people did not move to court, says Kapil Sibal, a prominent lawmaker and former congressman.

“I don’t mean Nirav Modi, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lalit Modi, they never went to court. So who was vilified? A fellow MLA and former minister. He filed a petition.” The Independent.

The defamation case was brought by Purnish Modi, a state legislator (Member of the Legislative Assembly or MLA) from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. He claimed that Gandhi’s remarks “discredit the entire Modi community”.

“The law requires that if a person has been subjected to personal defamation, they must move on [to court]Sibal explains. “he [Purnesh Modi] He said that Modi’s community has been vilified. What is modi community? He belongs to different sects. They are lagging behind in some countries. They are forward in some states. So there is no such thing as a Modi community.”

“So they target political opponents, and that’s what they do,” Sibal says.

The claim is unfounded.

Members of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) stand guard in front of the Red Fort during a protest rally by the Indian Congress Party against the conviction of Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case, in New Delhi on March 28, 2023.

(AFP via Getty Images)

On March 24, at least 14 political parties, led by Congress, moved the Supreme Court of India against the alleged misuse of federal law enforcement agencies by the Modi government to target the opposition.

According to the appeal, since Modi became prime minister in 2014, at least 124 leaders have been investigated by central law enforcement agencies. It claimed that of these, about 118 or 95 percent of the cases were filed against opposition leaders.

However, despite accusations of a “witch-hunt” by the ruling regime, the opposition has not always had a united front.

This was evident during the arrest of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia by India’s investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in February.

While most parties condemned his arrest in connection with alleged irregularities in Delhi’s now abolished liquor sales tax policy, Congress applauded his imprisonment.

Delhi Congress President Anil Chowdhury said at the time: “The arrest of Deputy Prime Minister Manish Sisodia by the CBI is a welcome step although Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal should also be arrested as he was the mastermind of the corruption deal.”

The difficulty in maintaining unity of the opposition was demonstrated recently, when a Congress ally in Maharashtra, the country’s richest state, fired back at Gandhi after he mocked the idealistic Hindutva of the British era in the 1980s. The struggle for freedom.

“My name is not Savarkar, my name is Gandhi and Gandhi makes no apologies to anyone,” said the unfazed Congress scion, apparently referring to his family members, including his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru who was India’s first independent prime minister.

The remark drew a sharp reaction from Udhav Thackeray, one of the leading leaders in Maharashtra, whose Hindu right-wing party reveres Shiv Sena Savarkar.

Thackeray had fallen out with Modi’s long-term ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and became the state’s chief minister in an alliance with the Congress party and another regional party, the National Congress Party in 2019.

But after his party leaders relented against him for ignoring the core ideology of Hindu nationalism and Sena separatism, Thackeray was forced to step down from office.

“Ver [Brave] Savarkar is our God, and no disrespect towards Him will be tolerated.” “We are ready to fight, but insulting our Gods is not something we will tolerate.”

Political analysts and opposition party leaders argue that Congress should tread lightly to keep the opposition united and not put regional parties in a bind, as it needs them to successfully challenge the BJP.

Indian Congress party activists and supporters protest against the conviction of Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case, in New Delhi on March 27, 2023

(AFP via Getty Images)

“You have to realize that this is the moment when you have the task of keeping all the political parties together. These political parties have their own history,” explains Professor Apurvanand.

And Shiv Sena has to maintain its acreage in Maharashtra. She knows she can be trapped with Savarkar, so she will have to fight back.

“So, for you as an ally to get Shiv Sena out of it. And for that, you will again have to resist the temptation to appear pure and smart and very politically correct because the job is to keep these forces together for a very long time, and they don’t know how to work together.” .

Congress also needs to reposition itself in the states where it has failed time and time again and look to other parties to defeat the BJP, says Sushmita Dev, a senator in parliament from the opposition Trinamool Congress party. Dev says parties that have shown they can defeat the BJP should be recognized by Congress, raising concerns about their inability to convert their share of votes into seats.

Congress has nearly 20 percent of the voting share. What is worrying, however, is their strike rate.” The Independent.

In the 2019 national elections, Congress fielded 421 candidates across the country, but only 52 were elected from 18 states and union territories, NDTV reports. The news channel indicated that the party, which had a footprint across the country, did not win a single seat in 17 states and union territories.

Of that, there were 192 seats in which the Congress was directly contested by the BJP, according to India Today. Of these, the Bharatiya Janata Party won 176 seats. “This is what keeps the BJP in power,” says Dev.

“Therefore, the Congress has to focus on winning the areas where they are in direct combat with the BJP,” she says, adding that the party should allow other parties that “have proven their ability to defeat the BJP over and over again.”

“It would take a lot of grace, a lot of sacrifice for Congress to do that.”

The sentencing of Gandhi just a year before the national elections has Congress worried because if his conviction is not suspended or overturned by a higher court before the elections, he will reportedly not be able to contest the elections. LiveMint.

However, there is also an opportunity for the party to prove that through Gandhi, they are not promoting dynastic politics, but rather fighting for the constitution, says Apoorvanand.

“I think this is better because it deprives the Bharatiya Janata Party of its propaganda that the Congress party wants to do is to force Rahul Gandhi as prime minister,” he says.

Indian Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi speaks at a public meeting amid heavy snowfall as he concludes the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Srinagar on January 30, 2023

(AFP via Getty Images)

“So even after he is disqualified and not allowed to contest the elections, if he stays on the street and if he campaigns for the opposition, I think he will send a very strong signal to people that he is not for the prime ministership he has been toiling about for so long,” he says.

He suggests that Gandhi build on the “moral authority” he gained during his 136-day journey. Bharat Gudo Yatra (Unite India March) and tried to bring together the opposition in a similar way to what his mother, Sonia Gandhi, did in 2004.

Sonia Gandhi, often ridiculed by the BJP for her Italian heritage, made a political statement by stepping down from the post of Chief Minister after winning the national elections that year.

“It only strengthened the Congress,” he says. “Similarly, this is an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to show that he does not care. He is still politically active because he is interested in democracy, and he is interested in the survival of India as we know it.”