More than four months after his disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on August 7 returned to Parliament after the Lok Sabha Secretariat restored his membership, following the Supreme Court stay on his conviction by a Surat court in a defamation case.
The Congress leader also changed his bio on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) to ‘Member of Parliament’ from the earlier ‘Dis’Qualified MP description that he had posted.
With Mr. Gandhi’s reinstatement coming a day before the Lok Sabha takes up the no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government on Tuesday, he could be initiating the debate that is expected to start around noon.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told The Hindu that the party wants Mr. Gandhi to open the debate. The no-trust motion was moved by the party’s Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha, Gaurav Gogoi, on July 26 in an attempt to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak on the Manipur violence.
The outcome of the trust vote is well-known as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 332 members as against 142 of the India National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and 64 MPs from non-NDA, non-INDIA parties.
However, the INDIA bloc wants to corner the Narendra Modi government over the continuing violence in Manipur, the communal flare up in Haryana and inflation, among other key issues.
“Rahul ji was the first national political leader to visit Manipur and spend two days there to understand the ground situation and appeal for peace. We want him to open the debate,” Mr. Chowdhury said.
As soon as the Lok Sabha Secretariat revoked Mr. Gandhi’s disqualification, almost an hour before the proceedings started at 11 a.m., sweets were distributed among the floor leaders at the chamber of the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge.
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Mr. Gandhi arrived just before the Lok Sabha proceedings, after an initial disruption during the Question Hour, was scheduled to resume at noon. Waiting at the main entrance to the Parliament building, MPs from the INDIA bloc distributed sweets and welcomed him with loud cheers.
The Lok Sabha member from Wayanad (Kerala) went to Mahatma Gandhi’s statue to offer his respects before entering the House. However, the House was adjourned within minutes.
Inside the Parliament complex, Mr. Gandhi, along with Mr. Kharge, attended a meeting in which Manipur leaders, including former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, briefed Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The Gandhis also visited the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) office in Parliament to offer their respects to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the late M. Karunanidhi, on his death anniversary.
When reporters at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters asked Mr. Gandhi for comment, he said, “It is a strange thing, even you people look happy”.
Welcoming his reinstatement, Mr. Kharge said the decision brought relief to the people of India, and especially to Wayanad. “Whatever time is left of their tenure, the BJP and the Modi government should utilise by concentrating on actual governance rather than denigrating Democracy by targeting Opposition leaders,” the Congress chief posted on X.
Several INDIA bloc leaders hailed Mr. Gandhi’s return as an MP, with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav saying he hoped that the Uttar Pradesh Assembly membership of party leader Azam Khan and his son Abdulla Azam too would be restored.
While Jammu and Kashmir National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said it is very good that Mr. Gandhi is back in the House, CPI general secretary D. Raja said it will strengthen parliamentary democracy.
BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi, however, played down the restoration of Lok Sabha membership and asserted that Mr. Gandhi has not been acquitted and only a stay has been given on the conviction and the matter is still pending with the court in Gujarat. “He was there in Parliament earlier also, what difference did it make to the Congress, they still lost elections. So his being in the House should not make the people of the Congress too happy,” he said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said “the voice of the real issues of the people will once again reverberate in Parliament” and general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said, “Democracy has won! India wins”.