'I have a small question. Why is each one of them, every thief that is, named Modi?'
While the translated recitation continued, Rahul Gandhi, smirking, prepared to unleash another casteist slur. 'Nirav Modi, Narendra Modi, and if we look around, there will be other three-four thieves named Modi', Gandhi stated, scoring another political self-goal and denting whatever little prospects the party may have had.
Come 2019, and the party scores a golden duck in Gujarat. Karnataka, where Gandhi uttered these remarks, did not reward the Congress either. In the state assembly elections in Gujarat, in 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party ate into whatever little political presence Congress had after the demise of Ahmed Patel.
With the conviction, the consequent two-years sentencing by the Surat Court, and the unapologetic defense of Gandhi's remarks by the Congress cadre on television, the party looks in no mood to reverse its fortunes in the state. Perhaps, they are beyond the point of caring.
While the party cadre may want the electorate to believe that this was an issue of freedom of speech and expression, the casteist slur visible cannot be dismissed lightly.
The conviction came under sections 499 (Defamation), 500 (punishment for Defamation) IPC. The bail followed the sentencing, however.
This is not about the Prime Minister's surname, as the Congress would want many to believe. Though only a few days back, one of the Congress spokespersons was seen, intentionally, mixing the names of the PM and Gautam Adani, only to withdraw his statement a couple of days later as a 'slip of tongue'. This is more about labelling an entire community as thieves in the hope of scoring cheap political brownie points.
The sentencing comes at an interesting time. On one hand, there is the entire Congress along with some smaller parties, attempting to convince the electorate that in democracy, dissent can have room for labelling and generalising an entire community, and then there is the call to not label all Sikhs as separatists (and rightfully so), given the actions of Amritpal Singh and his cartel, and a few radicalised ones abroad, hoping to ignite a debate around Khalistan.
Rahul Gandhi's challenge, however, is not limited to the political fallout, but also his Lok Sabha seat. Despite being granted bail, legal professionals maintain that his disqualification is “immediate and automatic” under the law.
Kapil Sibal, the former Congress leader and Union law minister, expressed that Gandhi's two-year jail sentence disqualified him automatically from parliamentary membership.
He stated that a mere suspension of his sentence would not suffice; his conviction also needed to be suspended or stayed. According to Sibal, if a stay order is not given, Gandhi cannot continue as a member of Parliament. These comments were made during an interview with NDTV.
In the past eight years, several MPs and MLAs, including Lalu Yadav, the former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, and others, have been disqualified soon after their convictions and imprisonment for more than two years. This list also comprises Rajya Sabha MP Rasheed Masud, MLAs Azam Khan and Abdullah Azam Khan, and Mohammed Faizal, the MP from Lakshadweep.
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