Congress plans major pushback over Rahul Gandhi’s jail sentence, TMC skips key Opposition meet | The Financial Express

Congress plans major pushback over Rahul Gandhi’s jail sentence, TMC skips key Opposition meet

The Congress along with other Opposition parties will meet President Droupadi Murmu this afternoon to raise the matter with her.

Congress plans major pushback over Rahul Gandhi’s jail sentence, TMC skips key Opposition meet
New Delhi: Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge addresses fellow opposition MPs during a march from Parliament House to Enforcement Directorate (ED) office to submit a complaint over the Adani issue, in New Delhi, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (PTI Photo)

Pitching for opposition unity, Congress president and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday held a meeting with Opposition leaders to evolve a joint strategy to take on the BJP-led government in the wake of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a 2019 criminal defamation case.

The opposition leaders met in the chamber of the Leader of Opposition inside Parliament complex. The entire Vijay Chowk area has virtually been turned into a fortress ahead of the Opposition’s march to Rashtrapati Bhavan with heavy deployment of police and security personnel.

The Opposition march from Vijay Chowk to Parliament is to target the Centre over its refusal to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the allegations levelled against industrialist Gautam Adani in a report released by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.

Among the parties that attended the meeting include the Congress, DMK, National Conference, RSP, VCK, JDU, CPI(M), SP, SS (Uddhav), IUML, AAP and CPI. The parties are expected to be part of the delegation that will meet the President later today.

The Congress along with other parties will meet President Droupadi Murmu this afternoon to raise the matter with her.

The Congress party has called the verdict against Gandhi a political issue related to the future of democracy and an example of the Modi government’s “politics of vengeance, threats, intimidation, and harassment”.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told reporters after a party meeting that the verdict is not just a legal issue, but also a serious political issue, adding that the verdict will be challenged in a higher court.

The main Opposition party has decided to take to the streets to oppose Rahul Gandhi’s conviction and said it will not just fight the case legally but also politically.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, during a rally at Kolar in Karnataka, the Wayanad MP had said: “Why all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names.”

For his 2019 comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname at the election rally, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday was convicted by a Surat court in Gujarat. He was sentenced to two years in jail. However, the court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court.

Reacting to the conviction, Bihar Deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav on Thursday defended Rahul Gandhi, saying that Opposition leaders should not be afraid of such actions. They need to fight.

“Action taken against Rahul shows that PM Narendra Modi is nervous and not confident of winning the 2024 Lok Sabha election,” Tejashwi said.

Referring to the alleged hounding of opposition leaders by the BJP-led government, he told reporters outside the state assembly that nothing like this has ever happened before in this country, adding that if the BJP continues for a few more years at the Centre, they would “finish the democracy and the constitution”.

Earlier in March, the Deputy CM’s Delhi home was raided by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the land-for-jobs case, and the Gujarat court’s verdict is the latest legal action against opposition party leaders seen as critical of the Modi government.

Echoing Rahul Gandhi, he emphasised, “There’s no need to be afraid.”

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was the first to come out in support of Rahul Gandhi, called it a “conspiracy” which was being hatched to “eliminate” non-BJP leaders and parties.

“Condemning the “non-stop targeting of Opposition leaders”, Shiv Sena (Uddhav) faction leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, tweeted, “With all due respect to the judiciary, Sh. Rahul Gandhi’s conviction is excessive and will have far-reaching consequences.”

Congress’s Jharkhand ally Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Hemant Soren on Thursday hit out at the BJP and the Centre over several issues, including Rahul Gandhi’s conviction, misuse of probe agencies and price rise.

Describing the court verdict on Gandhi as unjustified, Soren said: “It is difficult to comprehend whether we are in Amritkaal (75 years of independence as being observed by the Centre) or Apatkaal (state of emergency). The country is passing through a strange period.”

However, Rahul Gandhi’s conviction has generated a deafening silence from the Trinamool Congress, not known to share a cozy relationship with the Congress. It also indicates the bitterness between the two parties still remains.

Earlier in March, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had accused the Congress-Left combine of having an ‘immoral alliance’ with the BJP and said that her party will not enter into any partnership with the two opposition parties to fight the saffron camp in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile, 14 Opposition parties on Friday moved the Supreme Court alleging that the Centre is misusing agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, Live Law reported.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazahgam and Rashtriya Janata Dal were among the parties that approached the top court, Bar and Bench reported. They have urged the court to frame pre-arrest guidelines to prevent the “misuse” of investigative agencies.

Seeking an urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is appearing for the petitioners, claimed that 95% of investigations by the agencies are against Opposition leaders.

The court agreed to list the matter on April 5.

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First published on: 24-03-2023 at 13:43 IST
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