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Gandhi blames Modi for Parliament removal

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Top Indian opposition figure Rahul Gandhi said yesterday his disqualification from Parliament was retribution for his demanding a probe into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relationship with a controversial tycoon.

Gandhi was stripped of his parliamentary seat on Friday, a day after a defamation conviction in Modi’s home state of Gujarat for a 2019 campaign-trail remark seen as an insult to the premier.

Modi’s government has been widely accused of using the law to target and silence critics. The removal of its chief opponent comes at a time when its relationship with one of India’s most powerful industrialists has been under scrutiny.

Modi has been a close associate of Gautam Adani for decades but the latter’s business empire has been subject of renewed attention this year after a United States (US) investment firm accused it of “brazen” corporate fraud.

“I have been disqualified because the prime minister… is scared of the next speech that is going to come on Adani,” Gandhi told reporters. “I am here defending the democratic voice of the Indian people,” he added. “I am not scared of these threats.”

Gandhi, of the opposition Congress party, was sentenced to two years imprisonment on Thursday but walked free on bail after his lawyers vowed to appeal.

However, the conviction made him ineligible to continue sitting as a lawmaker in the Lower House of Parliament, the chamber’s joint secretary said on Friday.

Gandhi, 52, is the leading face of Congress, once the dominant force of Indian politics but now a shadow of its former self.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists protesting against Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi in Mumbai, India. PHOTO: AFP
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