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Why questions linger over Rahul Gandhi’s return to Parliament today


Why questions linger over Rahul Gandhi’s return to Parliament today

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at AICC headquarters after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark, restoring his status as an MP, in New Delhi. Will he return to Lok Sabha before the crucial no-trust motion? That is left to be seen. PTI

Will he or won’t he? That’s the question everyone is asking as all eyes turn to Lok Sabha today. Many are wondering if Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will return to Parliament after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his Modi surname remark, paving the way the way for a possible reinstatement as Wayanad MP.

Interestingly, if Rahul is to return to Lok Sabha today, his timing will be impeccable. From Tuesday (8 August), the debate on the no-trust motion moved by the Opposition over the ongoing ethnic-clashes in Manipur will begin. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reply to the debate on 10 August (Thursday).

Hours before the session begins today in the Lower House of Parliament, here’s what we know about Rahul’s return and why his so-called return may not even take place today.

Awaiting Speaker’s approval

Last Friday, the Supreme Court put Rahul Gandhi’s conviction – he was sentenced to two years in prison – for his ‘all thieves are Modi’ remark on hold. At the time, the apex court said, “No reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence. The order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication”.

“The ramifications of disqualification not just affects the rights of the individual but also the electorate,” the judges had also said.

Following this, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury appealed to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to reinstate Rahul Gandhi as an MP and allow him to attend proceedings from Monday. Notably, Rahul, according to his lawyer, has already lost122 days of Parliament.

Why questions linger over Rahul Gandhis return to Parliament today
Congress workers celebrate after the Supreme Court stayed the conviction of party leader Rahul Gandhi in the 2019 criminal defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark, restoring his status as an MP, in Ranchi. PTI

“The speed with which Rahul Gandhi was disqualified should be the same to reinstate him,” Chowdhury had told ANI news agency. Futhermore, Chowdhury sent the relevant court documents to the Speaker’s secretariat on Saturday morning and urging that Rahul’s reinstatement be done at “lightning speed”.

According to a Times of India report, Chowdhury said the Speaker had asked him to get in touch on Saturday morning, and when he did, he was directed to submit the papers to the LS secretary general.

Chowdhury said when he contacted the secretary general, he was informed that the office was closed on Saturday, and the papers should be sent to the Speaker. Chowdhury then mailed the documents to the LS secretariat.

A Lok Sabha secretariat functionary said that as the Supreme Court’s order had come on a Friday evening and the LS Secretariat is shut on Saturdays and Sundays, the papers will now be reviewed on Monday, following which a merit-based decision will be taken.

Interestingly, in the previous case of Lakshadweep MP PP Mohammed Faizal, a member of the Nationalist Congress Party, his reinstatement had taken a month. The MP, who had been disqualified in January, had moved the Supreme Court when he was not restored to Parliament. It was only in March that he was able to return to the Lok Sabha.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi gets reprieve in one ‘Modi surname’ case. But there are more pending

Congress Speaks

Amid this, Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh questioned the delay in reinstating Rahul’s MP status and even posted about it on the now-rebranded social media platform X.

He wrote, “26 hours after @RahulGandhi was “convicted” by the Sessions Court in Surat, the notification of his disqualification as MP was issued. 26 hours have passed since the Supreme Court stayed his wholly unjustified conviction. Why hasn’t his position as MP been restored yet?”

Sources close to the Congress also told NDTV that they would go to court in case of a delay and additionally the united Opposition, INDIA, would add the issue to the list they are flagging in Parliament, if the Speaker doesn’t restore Rahul’s membership.

On Monday prior to the Lok Sabha proceedings, the Congress has also called for a meeting its Lok Sabha MPs to discuss its demand of reinstating Rahul Gandhi as a member of Parliament.

Why questions linger over Rahul Gandhis return to Parliament today
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with party leader Rahul Gandhi at AICC headquarters after the Supreme Court stayed Gandhi’s conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case. PTI

MK Stalin, the Tamil Nadu chief minister and head of the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham party, also questioned the delay in restoring Rahul Gandhi’s membership. “Why hasn’t Thiru @RahulGandhi been restored as an MP despite the Supreme Court staying his conviction? Why the urgency shown to disqualify him is missing now? Is the BJP afraid of brother #RahulGandhi’s presence in Parliament?” he said on X (formerly Twitter).

Rahul’s Modi surname defamation case

All of this stems from a remark that Rahul Gandhi had made in 2019 at an election rally in Karnataka’s Kolar. Taking a dig at PM Modi, Rahul had then said: “How come all the thieves have Modi as a common surname?”

Following this, a criminal defamation case was filed by Purnesh Modi, a member of the BJP and also a former state minister in Gujarat. On 23 March, the Surat court had found the Congress leader guilty and sentenced him to two-years in prison. Owing to this conviction, Rahul was suspended from Parliament on basis of the Representation of the People Act.

Rahul then approached the Supreme Court and on Friday (4 August), the apex court had put his conviction on stay, paving the way for his return to Parliament.

Also read: Off-centre | Going, going… back! The strange case of Rahul Gandhi’s defamation conviction

Reacting to the news, Rahul had then said: “Come what may, my duty remains the same. Protect the idea of India.”

Other Congress and INDIA alliance leaders had also hailed the Supreme Court’s order with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee saying, “I am happy with the news about the MP-ship of Rahul Gandhi. This will further strengthen the resolve of the INDIA alliance to unitedly fight for our motherland and win. A victory of the judiciary!”

Supriya Sule of the NCP had also said: “In the pursuit of truth, the essence of Satyamev Jayate resonates once more. The unwavering voice of truth shall never be subdued. The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s decision on Rahul Gandhi Ji’s case is a herald of justice, warmly embraced. A hearty welcome back to Parliament!”

With inputs from agencies

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