Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP from the Wayanad seat after he was convicted in a 2019 criminal defamation case by a Surat court in Gujarat on March 23.
Gandhi's disqualification as an MP is according to Section 8 of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951, according to the LS Secretariat letter issued earlier today.
A Surat court on Thursday, March 23, sentenced Gandhi to two years' imprisonment after convicting him in the case regarding the ‘Modi surname’ remark that he made in Kolar, Karnataka, in 2019.
Now that Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified from the Wayanad, Kerala, seat, fresh bypolls will be conducted for which the Election Commission will have to announce new dates.
The conviction, if it is not stayed by a higher court, also debars Rahul Gandhi from contesting elections for the next 6 years.
Several Lok Sabha MPs in the past, like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mohammad Azam Khan, Abdullah Azam Khan, late former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalitha have also been disqualified after their convictions in the cases against them.
At a rally in Kolar, Karnataka in 2019, Rahul Gandhi had said, “How come all thieves have Modi as a common surname?”
The Surat district court convicted him on this sentence after a case was filed against him by BJP MLA and former minister Purnesh Modi.
Though Rahul Gandhi was given a bail on a surety of Rs 15,000, for 30 days so that he could appeal in a higher court, his conviction remains.
And this is why Gandhi has now been disqualified as an MP.
(Go Deeper: Why has Rahul Gandhi been sentenced to 2 years in jail?) The Wayanad seat
The Wayanad seat was a safe seat for Gandhi where he went to contest apart from also contesting from the Amethi seat in 2019. While Gandhi had the apprehension of losing the Amethi seat to BJP’s Smriti Irani (he did lose it to her), he contested from Wayanad, which is a strong Congress seat among the 20 Lok Sabha seats of Kerala.
Gandhi had replaced former Congress MP MI Shanavas, who had been winning the seat since 2009. And in 2019, Gandhi won by a record of more than 4 lakh votes.
In case of new bypolls, the seat is expected to remain with the Congress, as the BJP has negligible presence in the constituency. CPI is the second strong contender for the seat.
Jairam Ramesh, Congress Party’s General Secretary In-charge, said that the party will fight the disqualification legally as well as politically. “We will not be intimidated or silenced,” he said.
We will fight this battle both legally and politically. We will not be intimidated or silenced. Instead of a JPC into the PM-linked Adani MahaMegaScam, @RahulGandhi stands disqualified. Indian Democracy Om Shanti. pic.twitter.com/d8GmZjUqd5— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) March 24, 2023
Congress President Mallikharjun Kharge also said that the party would fight the conviction and protests all across the country will be held by Congress workers.
Not only the Congress leaders, even Rahul Gandhi’s arch rival, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, called Gandhi’s conviction in the case unfair.
Kejriwal said that he might have political differences with Gandhi but this tactic of intimidating him by a defamation case is wrong and that he is not content with the court’s sentence.
ग़ैर बीजेपी नेताओं और पार्टियों पर मुक़दमे करके उन्हें ख़त्म करने की साज़िश हो रही है— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 23, 2023
हमारे कांग्रेस से मतभेद हैं मगर राहुल गांधी जी को इस तरह मानहानि मुक़दमे में फ़साना ठीक नहीं। जनता और विपक्ष का काम है सवाल पूछना। हम अदालत का सम्मान करते हैं पर इस निर्णय से असहमत हैं
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “Since the court is in Gujarat, I have no comments to make.”
A Court in GUJARAT pronounced judgement on @RahulGandhi.— Sanjay Raut (@rautsanjay61) March 23, 2023
This sums up & says it all.
Does this scare us? No!
Will Opposition quit? No!!
Will the Struggle go on? Yes!!!
Such Gimmicks are Fuel for the Fire which will burn their Lordliness to Ashes. Jai Hind.@priyankagandhi pic.twitter.com/TCHBys9mK5
Rahul Gandhi’s conviction and subsequent disqualification reminds us of the noted writ petition of renowned Supreme Court lawyer, Lily Thomas, who had filed a petition asking the court to strike down Section 8 of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1951.
The past comes to haunt Gandhi: 10 years ago, in 2013, Rahul Gandhi in a press conference shockingly tore up an ordinance that was brought by the UPA 2 government that gave convicted lawmakers a three-month reprieve to retain their seats.
Today, Rahul Gandhi has been convicted under the same Supreme Court judgment that the executive had sought to nullify through the ordinance.
Back then, Rahul’s supposed naivete had embarrassed the top Congress brass, mainly PM Manmohan Singh and senior leaders like P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, the ones who were behind that ordinance.
As Rahul Gandhi stands disqualified, all eyes will now be on the Election Commission regarding the new dates of the Wayanad bypolls.
It will also be interesting to see who is fielded from the Congress party; whether it would be Priyanka Gandhi or some other leader like Mallikarjun Kharge.