India’s opposition marks ‘black day’ to protest Gandhi’s ouster as lawmaker
New Delhi, Mar 27 (EFE).- India’s opposition parties Monday launched a joint protest rally in New Delhi against the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi, scion of the once-dominant Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, as a member of parliament.
Gandhi, 52, was disqualified on Friday as a lawmaker after a court found him guilty of defamation and sentenced him to two years in prison for asking “why all the thieves” share the Modi surname during a political campaign in April 2019.
Gandhi is one of the most powerful politicians of the opposition Indian National Congress (INC) and represented a South Indian constituency in the lower house of the Indian parliament.
The Indian National Congress, the oldest political party in India, took out a rally of leaders from all opposition parties to condemn the disqualification of Gandhi from the Lok Sabha or the lower house.
The protesting opposition leaders dressed in black as they marched on the streets of the Indian capital to mark what they describe as a “black day” in the history of Indian democracy.
Former Congress president and Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi led the march amid anti-government slogans.
The opposition leaders linked Gandhi’s disqualification to his criticism of the billionaire businessman Gautam Adani, who is believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said theirs was a “fight for the truth.”
He said the government went after Gandhi after he began speaking about Adani and Modi’s crony capitalism.
“How has Adani’s wealth multiplied so much in the last few years? When you go to foreign countries, how many times did you take the industrialist with you? The prime minister has not been able to give answers to questions raised against Adani,” Kharge told reporters.
The opposition parties accuse Modi of stonewalling their demand for a parliamentary probe into the business of Adani, who has openly supported Modi and received his patronage.
A report by a United States-based short-seller, published in January, accused the Adani conglomerate of manipulating stocks and committing accounting fraud.
Gandhi got bail after the court last week suspended the sentence for a month, giving him time to appeal the verdict.
He made the controversial remarks as he canvassed for the last general election in the southern state of Karnataka in 2019.
“Why all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names,” the Congress leader allegedly said during the rally, referring to a common surname in western India, especially in Gujarat state.
Gandhi had named diamond magnate Nirav Modi, accused of defrauding a state-run bank of over $2 billion before fleeing to the United Kingdom.
Cricket czar Lalit Modi, who allegedly lives in Britain, is wanted in a money laundering and tax evasion case after allegations that a facilitation fee of $90 million was paid by one company to another for obtaining telecast rights for the Indian Premier League.
The two Modis are not related to each other or the prime minister, even as the Congress has been relentlessly accusing the federal government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of helping the fugitives escape Indian law.
The sentencing and the subsequent disqualification followed days of protests in the Indian parliament by ruling BJP lawmakers, seeking an apology for Gandhi’s allegedly derogatory comments about India’s democracy in the United Kingdom. EFE