Why Rahul Gandhi's Disqualification is a Golden Opportunity for the Opposition

Congress' rivals like KCR, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal have expressed solidarity with Rahul Gandhi.

3 min read
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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's conviction in a defamation case and his prompt disqualification from the Lok Sabha is an important moment in Indian politics.

A top Opposition leader has been rendered ineligible to contest because a court found his negative remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname as 'defamation'.

Now, the Congress and its legal team may well appeal his conviction and it may or may not be set aside.

But the political impact of this moment would still remain. And this may be a golden opportunity for the Opposition.

Opposition Speaks in One Voice

Every prominent Opposition leader has criticised this, even those who may otherwise not share a great relationship with the Congress.


Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal called this a 'one-party, one-leader dictatorship' and said, "The Modi government is more dangerous than the British rule. This is not just a Congress fight. This is a fight to save the country."

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, "In PM Modi’s New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches."

Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao termed it a "dark day in the history of Indian democracy" and urged Opposition parties to shed their differences and "come together to save Constitutional values and democracy".

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav called harassment of Opposition leaders a consistent policy of the BJP and reminded that his party leader Azam Khan and his son were also disqualified in a similar manner.

Shiv Sena-UBT leader and former Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said "This is a murder of democracy. It has become a crime to call a thief a thief".

The Opposition's stand is important also because the Congress hasn't always supported Opposition leaders targeted by the Centre.

For instance, the Delhi Congress had welcomed the arrest of Manish Sisodia in the alleged liquor scam and the Telangana Congress has been demanding the arrest of BRS leader K Kavitha.

The party has also had a bitter relationship with the Trinamool Congress.

However, the outpouring of Opposition condemnation does provide some common ground for the Opposition parties to build on.

Some Opposition leaders have been silent so far - such as Naveen Patnaik, YS Jaganmohan Reddy and, curiously, even the Congress' ally in Bihar - Nitish Kumar.


Why This is a Major Opportunity

Though the signs were always there - such as Sisodia's arrest, Azam Khan's disqualification, the manner in which the Shiv Sena was split - Rahul Gandhi's disqualification makes it even more clear that the stakes are much bigger than individual egos.

It is no longer about who the PM face would be, the feeling in the Opposition is that this is about survival of democracy itself.

And many Opposition players are seeing Rahul Gandhi, Azam Khan, Manish Sisodia and K Kavitha not as political rivals but as victims of the Centre.

The question now is whether the Congress would also consider other Opposition leaders in the same category as its own.

Electorally, however, cooperation could be a tricky matter as the Congress is in direct competition with parties like AAP, TMC, BRS and SP.

Sceptics within the Congress see the 'solidarity' offered by these parties as an attempt to capture the anti-BJP votes in their respective states.

However irrespective of the electoral competition, join rallies, protests and petitions by Opposition parties are likely to increase in the coming weeks.

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