Rahul Gandhi disqualification brings political rivals in Kerala on the same page

Cutting across party lines, leaders condemned the Lok Sabha Secretariat for disqualifying Rahul Gandhi, who was an MP from Wayanad.

BySreerag PS

Published Mar 24, 2023 | 7:13 PMUpdatedMar 25, 2023 | 12:35 AM

Congress workers in Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad, take out a protest march against the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi on Friday, 24 March. (Supplied)

The “hasty” disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha has brought two bitter political rivals in Kerala — the ruling LDF and the Opposition UDF — on the same page.

In a rare show of unity, leaders of both fronts urged everyone to fight against the perceived assault on Indian democracy.

Rahul Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad, a constituency spread over Kerala’s hilly Wayanad and  Malappuram districts and Thiruvambady in Kozhikode.

Those who condemned the disqualification included Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Opposition leader VD Satheesan, and other senior LDF and UDF leaders.

Authoritarian rampage: Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan termed the disqualification an insult to democratic values and yet another episode in the BJP’s authoritarian rampage against Indian democracy

“The hasty decision to disqualify @RahulGandhi as a member of the Lok Sabha is yet another episode in
@BJP4India’s authoritarian rampage against Indian democracy. This brazen assault is an insult to our democratic values and can’t be overlooked. It must be unequivocally denounced [sic],” he said.

In a detailed statement released through the Department of Information and Public Relations, Vijayan stated that the Wayanad MP was disqualified over a political speech, and said the “use of force to suppress dissent is a fascistic method”.

He continued: “A prominent leader of the Opposition has been attacked like this. Then, what will be the fate of common people who express their voices freely?”

Vijayan didn’t stop there. “What respect do they have for our Constitutional values? The arrest of opposition MPs in Delhi for protesting against the political interference in non-BJP ruled states using agencies under the Union Government, as well as the cases against Manish Sisodia and Rahul Gandhi, is another side of this,” he stated in Delhi, where he earlier met Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar on Friday, 24 March.

He also opined that the growing intolerance towards criticism is endangering democracy and requested all democratic forces to stand together and condemn the action against Gandhi.

Also read: Allies, rival parties alike decry Rahul Gandhi disqualification

Bid to silence Congress: Ramesh Chennithala

Former leader of the Opposition and Haripad MLA Ramesh Chennithala told South First: “We will fight this issue politically and legally. We have already started protest rallies in Kerala, it will be extended to every nook and corner of the nation.”

He said the immediate disqualification of the MP raised suspicion among the public.

“This is a grand design by the BJP to silence the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. but the people of India will reject it. The people of India believe in democratic values and are intelligent to understand these issues. They are not going to accept it,” he added.

Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan said the Congress could neither be frightened nor silenced.

“The Congress believes in democracy and in the rule of the law. The legal battle will continue and the truth will prevail,” he said in a Facebook post.

India being killed — RIP for democracy is not far!

CPI(M) leader and Rajya Sabha member John Brittas also questioned the urgency of disqualifying Gandhi.

“When parliament itself is treated shabbily, it’s not surprising to see the lightning speed with which
@RahulGandhi is disqualified. RIP for democracy is not very far [sic],” he tweeted.

Former MLA and CPI(M) state secretariat member M Swaraj also came out in support of the Wayanad MP.

“India proves that democracy is merely a word. It is clear as day that Rahul Gandhi’s speech is not meant to insult any community and the purpose of that speech is to criticise the Prime Minister and corruption,” Swaraj posted on Facebook.

He also opined that India is being killed and it is time for all who believe in democracy to protest against the BJP.

Gandhi’s comments defamatory: Union minister

Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said that “…when there is a protest against the court order in the street, this means that they are challenging the democratic institutions and Indian Constitution”.

He added: “However, this is Rahul Gandhi’s heritage. In 1974 when Allahabad High Court gave an order against Indira Gandhi she overcame the verdict by declaring an internal Emergency and continued in power. But this time, Rahul Gandhi is not in power, so he cannot promulgate an Emergency,”

Muraleedharan also said: “The verdict against Rahul Gandhi is regarding defaming an entire community. Rahul Gandhi’s comments against the marginalised section have hurt them and are defamatory to those communities.”

He denied that there was any hurry in disqualifying Gandhi.

“The Lok Sabha Secretariat waited until it received the order, and the notification was released when it got the order,” the Rajya Sabha member said.

Also read: Wait for Rahul Gandhi to be MP again may be long

‘Fighting for the voice of India’

On Thursday, 23 March, a court in Surat in Gujarat, sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail after finding him guilty in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him over his “Modi surname” remark.

“The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma, which held Gandhi guilty under Indian Penal Code Sections 499 and 500, also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days, allowing him to appeal in a higher court,” the Congress leader’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said.

Following the court order, Lok Sabha Secretary General Utpal Kumar released a notification on Friday disqualifying Rahul Gandhi as an MP.

“… Consequent upon his conviction by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat in C.C./18712/2019, Shri Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951,” the notification read.

Later in the day, Rahul Gandhi tweeted that he was fighting for the voice of the country. He expressed willingness to pay any price for it.

“I am fighting for the voice of India. I am ready to pay any cost,” read the translation of his tweet in Hindi.

Phone calls by South First to Members of Parliament NK Premachandran (RSP), Binoy Viswam (CPI), and ET Mohammed Basheer (IUML) went unanswered.