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Law, Penalty, Political Opportunity: The Tangents Drawn by Rahul Gandhi's Ouster

Here are some editorials & opinion pieces in leading newspapers on Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha.

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Politics
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Law, Penalty, Political Opportunity: The Tangents Drawn by Rahul Gandhi's Ouster
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"My name is Gandhi, not Savarkar," said a defiant Rahul Gandhi while talking to the media on Saturday, 25 March, a day after he was disqualified from the Lok Sabha over conviction in a defamation case. The two agendas of Gandhi's briefing were clear - centre the discussion around business tycoon Gautam Adani and highlight his alleged political witch-hunt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While the first agenda, as it has in the past, was marred by ambiguity, the second one seems to be a largely acceptable narrative to even his critics and has led to discussions around the necessity of the colonial era defamation laws, a gained opportunity for Gandhi, and learnings for the Congress.

Here are some editorials and opinion pieces in leading Indian newspapers on Saturday that took a closer look at one of the biggest political dramas in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

Law, Penalty, Political Opportunity: The Tangents Drawn by Rahul Gandhi's Ouster

  1. 1. Why BJP Loves to Hate Rahul

    In this article by Suhas Palshikar for The Indian Express, the senior political analyst highlights Rahul's political trajectory and the BJP's handling of it. Palshikar opines that the BJP's tactics are "are less related to Rahul the person, and more about the century-old concerns of the Hindutva project."

    "The question that should make us curious is not Rahul’s personal political trajectory; it is why the BJP finds it necessary to singularly focus on him (besides the earlier vile attacks on Sonia Gandhi). A simple answer, of course, is that Rahul being the de facto “face” of the Congress party, maligning him can lead to demoralising of the ordinary Congress workers. A related reason could be to show non-BJP voters the futility of investing their political hopes in a bankrupt leader and party. Thirdly, ridicule of Rahul is also directed against the possible efforts towards a loose understanding among the Opposition because the more Rahul is criticised, the more steadfast the Congress becomes in projecting Rahul as an alternative to Modi."

    Read the full article here.

    Expand
  2. 2. Chilling Effect: On Defamation, Free Speech and the Rahul Gandhi Case

    This editorial by The Hindu focuses on the relevance of criminal defamation punishments in the political spectrum of India and its recent effects on the political career of Rahul Gandhi. The editorial suggests that Opposition parties backing Rahul Gandhi should include abolishing criminal defamation in their agenda.

    "The correctness of the judgment will be decided on appeal, but the political cost to Mr Gandhi in the form of disqualification from the House and from electoral contest will have a lasting impact, unless he obtains a stay on the conviction rather than mere suspension of sentence. In a country that often frets over criminalisation of politics, corruption and hate speeches, it is ironic that criminal defamation should overwhelm the political career of a prominent leader. A modern democracy should not treat defamation as a criminal offence at all. It is a legacy of an era in which questioning authority was considered a grave crime. In contemporary times, criminal defamation mainly acts as a tool to suppress criticism of public servants and corporate misdeeds."

    Read the full article here.

    Expand
  3. 3. Rahul’s Case & a Colonial Relic

    The editorial by Naveed Mehmood Ahmad and Ayushi Sharma for The Times of India talks about the 'colonial hangover' of the criminal defamation law. The piece also talks about how the law, under which Gandhi was convicted, is worded dangerously vaguely and that the Supreme Court had missed an opportunity to junk the law.

    "Gandhi is expected to take his fight against the conviction to the sessions court. But this is also a context in which all right-thinking people should reignite another fight, one which is far more significant for the future of democratic values in India – the fight against criminalisation of defamation. This is another of those colonial relics in our statute books, and like others of its ilk, it has been misused for long. Criminal defamation has a chilling effect on free speech."

    Read the full article here.

    Expand
  4. 4. Should Rahul Gandhi Take the Two-Year Jail Term?

    In the backdrop of the serious political blunders of the past by the Congress party and the strategising machinery of the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 elections, this piece for The Hindustan Times by Roshan Kishore explores the option of Rahul Gandhi actually taking up the two-year jail term without challenging the conviction.

    "Gandhi once tore the ordinance introduced by the Manmohan Singh government to protect convicted legislatures from losing their membership. If Gandhi chooses to go to jail, it will strengthen his narrative that his fight with the powers-that-be is not just cosmetic but real. This idea might sound counterintuitive and far-fetched, but facing State repression — for this is how the Congress is already describing the punishment — during the freedom struggle and the Emergency played a big role in building the popularity of at least two generations of mass leaders in India. Rahul Gandhi has not faced this until now. Baptism by fire will help. In the wake of the Bharat Joda Yatra, where Gandhi’s entire self-projection was of a tapasvi following the path of the Mahatma, this offers an opportunity to be a satyagrahi."

    Read the full article here.

    Expand
  5. 5. Can Rahul Gandhi Reinvent Himself?

    The latest edition of 'AA Edit' by The Asian Age looks at Rahul Gandhi's ouster from the Lok Sabha as an opportunity to for him to relaunch himself and use it to his advantage. The article also lists out the several traits of Rahul Gandhi's political persona to highlight what works for him and what does not.

    "They must refer to history and discover how a failed attempt to arrest and jail Indira Gandhi after she lost power, and her disqualification from the Lok Sabha after getting elected through a by-election, helped her return to politics with a bang. It’s time Mr Gandhi realised that nothing can replace hard politics. His slogans neither make an instant appeal with the people nor does he have the mechanism to make them appear so. He is not a politician who can make rhetoric acceptable to the masses. Insinuations are not his strength, honest talk is. Creation of augmented realities is not his forte; real politics is. He must strengthen those faculties instead of chasing the mirage."

    Read the full article here.

    Expand
  6. 6. More from The Quint

    Expand

Why BJP Loves to Hate Rahul

In this article by Suhas Palshikar for The Indian Express, the senior political analyst highlights Rahul's political trajectory and the BJP's handling of it. Palshikar opines that the BJP's tactics are "are less related to Rahul the person, and more about the century-old concerns of the Hindutva project."

"The question that should make us curious is not Rahul’s personal political trajectory; it is why the BJP finds it necessary to singularly focus on him (besides the earlier vile attacks on Sonia Gandhi). A simple answer, of course, is that Rahul being the de facto “face” of the Congress party, maligning him can lead to demoralising of the ordinary Congress workers. A related reason could be to show non-BJP voters the futility of investing their political hopes in a bankrupt leader and party. Thirdly, ridicule of Rahul is also directed against the possible efforts towards a loose understanding among the Opposition because the more Rahul is criticised, the more steadfast the Congress becomes in projecting Rahul as an alternative to Modi."

Read the full article here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Chilling Effect: On Defamation, Free Speech and the Rahul Gandhi Case

This editorial by The Hindu focuses on the relevance of criminal defamation punishments in the political spectrum of India and its recent effects on the political career of Rahul Gandhi. The editorial suggests that Opposition parties backing Rahul Gandhi should include abolishing criminal defamation in their agenda.

"The correctness of the judgment will be decided on appeal, but the political cost to Mr Gandhi in the form of disqualification from the House and from electoral contest will have a lasting impact, unless he obtains a stay on the conviction rather than mere suspension of sentence. In a country that often frets over criminalisation of politics, corruption and hate speeches, it is ironic that criminal defamation should overwhelm the political career of a prominent leader. A modern democracy should not treat defamation as a criminal offence at all. It is a legacy of an era in which questioning authority was considered a grave crime. In contemporary times, criminal defamation mainly acts as a tool to suppress criticism of public servants and corporate misdeeds."

Read the full article here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rahul’s Case & a Colonial Relic

The editorial by Naveed Mehmood Ahmad and Ayushi Sharma for The Times of India talks about the 'colonial hangover' of the criminal defamation law. The piece also talks about how the law, under which Gandhi was convicted, is worded dangerously vaguely and that the Supreme Court had missed an opportunity to junk the law.

"Gandhi is expected to take his fight against the conviction to the sessions court. But this is also a context in which all right-thinking people should reignite another fight, one which is far more significant for the future of democratic values in India – the fight against criminalisation of defamation. This is another of those colonial relics in our statute books, and like others of its ilk, it has been misused for long. Criminal defamation has a chilling effect on free speech."

Read the full article here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Should Rahul Gandhi Take the Two-Year Jail Term?

In the backdrop of the serious political blunders of the past by the Congress party and the strategising machinery of the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 elections, this piece for The Hindustan Times by Roshan Kishore explores the option of Rahul Gandhi actually taking up the two-year jail term without challenging the conviction.

"Gandhi once tore the ordinance introduced by the Manmohan Singh government to protect convicted legislatures from losing their membership. If Gandhi chooses to go to jail, it will strengthen his narrative that his fight with the powers-that-be is not just cosmetic but real. This idea might sound counterintuitive and far-fetched, but facing State repression — for this is how the Congress is already describing the punishment — during the freedom struggle and the Emergency played a big role in building the popularity of at least two generations of mass leaders in India. Rahul Gandhi has not faced this until now. Baptism by fire will help. In the wake of the Bharat Joda Yatra, where Gandhi’s entire self-projection was of a tapasvi following the path of the Mahatma, this offers an opportunity to be a satyagrahi."

Read the full article here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Can Rahul Gandhi Reinvent Himself?

The latest edition of 'AA Edit' by The Asian Age looks at Rahul Gandhi's ouster from the Lok Sabha as an opportunity to for him to relaunch himself and use it to his advantage. The article also lists out the several traits of Rahul Gandhi's political persona to highlight what works for him and what does not.

"They must refer to history and discover how a failed attempt to arrest and jail Indira Gandhi after she lost power, and her disqualification from the Lok Sabha after getting elected through a by-election, helped her return to politics with a bang. It’s time Mr Gandhi realised that nothing can replace hard politics. His slogans neither make an instant appeal with the people nor does he have the mechanism to make them appear so. He is not a politician who can make rhetoric acceptable to the masses. Insinuations are not his strength, honest talk is. Creation of augmented realities is not his forte; real politics is. He must strengthen those faculties instead of chasing the mirage."

Read the full article here.

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