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India oppn unites in demanding Rahul Gandhi’s return as MP


India’s fractured opposition parties are coming together to demand that Rahul Gandhi be reinstated as a lawmaker after he was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lawmaker Manish Tewari, who is also a member of Gandhi’s Congress party, said there’s an “unprecedented closure of ranks” among the opposition on the politician’s ouster and they see it as an attempt to silence criticism on Modi.
In recent days, key regional parties have joined the main opposition Congress party for the first time to discuss strategy following Gandhi’s removal while many more lawmakers have tweeted support. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said the law applies equally to everyone and Gandhi must face the consequences.
“All the opposition parties are today on the same page,” Tewari told Bloomberg TV’s Haslinda Amin and Yvonne Man. “Number one they are demanding there should be a joint parliamentary committee to go into the l’affaire Adani in the wake of the allegations made in the short seller Hindenburg report and number two they are demanding a rollback in the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi.”
Gandhi has said the decision to remove him was politically motivated, characterising it as an attempt by government to silence him from debating Modi’s alleged ties to Indian billionaire Gautam Adani. The tycoon and his conglomerate has denied allegations of fraud and market manipulation from a US short seller, calling it an attack on India.
It remains to be seen if the opposition, often beset by infighting, can turn Gandhi’s expulsion from parliament into a call to unite ahead of national elections that are about a year away. Modi and the BJP have defeated the opposition and Gandhi for two straight elections and are widely expected by analysts and observers to win another term.
Gandhi, a scion of India’s most famous political dynasty, was ousted from parliament as a lawmaker, after a local court convicted him of defaming Modi during an election speech in 2019. The 52-year-old politician was sentenced to two years in jail but immediately granted bail.
As many as 17 opposition parties — including firebrand leader Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party that has a following in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, Communist Party of India, and parties such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam that rule southern states — attended a Congress-led strategy meeting.
The Trinamool had earlier said it would stay equidistant from the Congress and BJP. Bharat Rashtra Samithi, a rival of the Congress in another state, also joined the meeting, local media reported.
Gandhi also faces the risk of being barred from contesting in the national polls if the higher court doesn’t stay his conviction or reduce his prison time. India’s laws state that those sentenced to jail for two years or more can’t take part in electoral contests for six years after the completion of their sentence.
Tewari said the broader issue was the emerging trend of India’s democratic freedoms coming under attack with the move to oust Gandhi.
“This has a chilling effect on free speech that you can file a defamation against anyone anywhere in the country, get the matter fast tracked, get the person convicted and throw him out of parliament,” he said.

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