April 10, 2023 Written by Allan Willard
Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” These were the words uttered by Rahul Gandhi in 2019 that set off a defamation case that could see him imprisoned for up to two years. Gandhi is the descendent of three former Indian Prime Ministers and was a pivotal leader in the Indian National Congress, which is currently the largest opposition party to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Members of Parliament lose their seats if they are convicted of a crime and sentenced to two or more years, and as a court has already found Gandhi guilty of defamation, he has lost his parliamentary seat. Despite this, Gandhi is not currently in jail but on bail for 30 days while he files an appeal against the verdict.
As Gandhi is expected to challenge Modi in the 2024 elections, the debate surrounding the case is fierce. For some opposition members and allies of Gandhi, the ruling is just further proof of Modi’s autocratic intentions. They have staged parliamentary and street protests in opposition to it. For Purnesh Modi, a member of the BJP who filed the defamation case, the comment “defamed the entire Modi community.” Modi is a common last name in the western Indian state of Gujarat, and Gandhi named the controversial Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech.
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