Fighting for voice of India, ready to pay any price, says Rahul Gandhi after disqualification as MP

The disqualification came in the wake of Mr. Gandhi's conviction by a Surat court in a 2019 defamation case

March 24, 2023 06:52 pm | Updated 07:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi leaves Parliament House on March 24, 2023.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi leaves Parliament House on March 24, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Reacting to his disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said he was fighting to restore the country's voice and will pay any price to do so.

"I am fighting for the voice of India and am ready to pay any price (for it)," Mr. Gandhi tweeted in Hindi. His tweet followed his disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP earlier on Friday.

The disqualification came in the wake of Mr. Gandhi's conviction by a Surat court in a 2019 defamation case on Thursday. The disqualified Congress MP was sentenced to two years in prison following his conviction for a remark using the surname 'Modi' at a campaign event for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in Karnataka.

However, the court later approved his bail on a surety of ₹15,000 while suspending his sentence for a period of 30 days during which he can challenge his conviction at a higher court.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Friday came down heavily on the Centre over Mr. Gandhi's disqualification as a Lok Sabha member, calling it a "strangulation of democracy" while exuding confidence that the disqualification will be revoked through a stay on his conviction by a higher court.

The party alleged that Mr. Gandhi's disqualification is part of a "pattern" to stop him from speaking out against the Central government and also an attempt to divert public attention from real issues.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in the national capital, Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi and senior leader Jairam Ramesh lashed out at the Centre over the disqualification of the former national party president.

"The issue before us is political, more than it is legal. It is a political issue because it signifies the systematic, repetitive emasculation of democratic institutions by the ruling party. It signifies the strangulation of democracy itself. We know that defamation is an exception to free speech, but over the last several years, we have had repeated examples of unthinkable assaults on freedom of speech, more importantly, freedom after speech. We all know that Rahul Gandhi has been speaking fearlessly inside and outside Parliament. He is paying a price for it," Mr. Singhvi said.

He said that the government was resorting to new methods to "throttle" Rahul Gandhi's voice. "This government is rattled because he clearly speaks with facts and figures on demonetisation. Be it the supposed clean chit to China, or the GST, he is consistently aggressive and open in his questioning. Therefore this government is finding new techniques of throttling his voice," Mr. Singhvi alleged.

On the criticism by the BJP following Rahul Gandhi's remarks on Indian democracy in the U.K. recently, Mr. Singhvi said the Congress leader is not entitled to speak freely on grounds of "fake and imaginary nationalism".

"Rahul Gandhi goes abroad, he is not entitled to speak freely on grounds of fake nationalism, created imaginary nationalism. He comes back and his speeches abroad become the basis of action against him inside Parliament. All of this is part of a pattern to stop him (from speaking out against this government), to divert public attention from the real and burning issues before the nation today. It is also intended to create a fear psychosis among those who dare to question this government," he said.

Mr. Singhvi said Mr. Gandhi will emerge victorious in the higher court in the defamation case.

"We are confident that we will get a stay on his conviction, which will, in turn, remove the very basis of this disqualification. We have full faith in the law. We believe we will emerge victorious in the near future," he said.

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