India bans convicted Modi critic from parliament WGN Radio 720

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s supreme opposition leader and prime minister Narendra Modi’s veteran critic was found guilty Friday of defamation and sentenced to two years in prison for mocking Modi’s surname in an election speech. The day after he was sentenced, he was expelled from parliament. .

His actions against Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, were widely condemned by Modi’s opponents as the latest attack on democracy and free speech by the ruling government seeking to quell dissent. Elimination would deal a heavy blow to the opposition party he leads ahead of next year’s national elections.

A district court in Modi’s home state of Gujarat on Thursday found Gandhi guilty of asking, “Why are all the thieves named Modi?” in a 2019 speech. Gandhi then referred to three famous unrelated Modis in his speech: a fugitive Indian diamond king, a cricket executive expelled from India’s Premier League tournament and the prime minister.

Under Indian law, a conviction and a prison term of two years or more are grounds for expulsion from parliament, but Gandhi has been out on 30-day bail and plans to appeal.

Opposition lawmakers on Friday rallied in his defense, calling his ouster a new low for India’s constitutional democracy.

Critics of Modi say India’s democracy — the world’s largest with a population of about 1.4 billion — has been in retreat since he first came to power in 2014. They accuse his populist government of being devoted to pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda.

“I am fighting for the voice of this country. No matter what the price,” Gandhi, 52, wrote on Twitter.

Gandhi’s family has produced three prime ministers, including his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru. Two of his — grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated while in office.

Gandhi has positioned himself as a major challenger to the Modi government, but his Indian National Congress party has struggled in the last two general elections. He has tried in recent months to win over voters by raising the issue of corruption and accusing the Modi government of damaging the reputation of India’s democracy.

Late last year, Gandhi led a popular “Unity March” across wide swathes of India, rallying crowds against the Modi government and Hindu nationalism, which had surged under his leadership.

Opponents have accused Modi’s party of increasing hate speech and violence against Muslims and other minorities in recent years. imprisonment, consistent with a crackdown on dissent.

Modi’s party denies the accusations, and his supporters say the son of a tea vendor from Gujarat has improved the country’s standing.

Gandhi also attacks the government over Modi’s proximity to business mogul Gautam Adani. Adani was accused in January of this year by an American research and investment firm of fraud and stock manipulation on his company. I was asking for a survey of the business of Modi’s party says he has nothing to do with Adani.

If Gandhi’s conviction is not suspended or overturned by a high court, he faces the risk of not running in the 2024 national elections, though some analysts say he may eventually return to politics. says.

“This could actually give the opposition parties the impetus to finally calm their differences and come together to fight Modi,” said political commentator Arti Jelas.

Gandhi’s political party said the conviction they planned to appeal was “cowardly and dictatorial”, and leaders warned that his ouster could cause long-term damage to the country.

“This is politics with gloves on and a bad sign for our democracy,” said Shashi Thalor, a member of Gandhi’s party.

Critics of Modi point to Modi’s party’s attacks on opposition leaders, rights groups and media critical of the government.

Last month, Indian tax authorities raided the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, weeks after the BBC aired a documentary critical of Modi. The documentary explores his role in the anti-Muslim riots that broke out in western Gujarat in 2002, when he was Prime Minister. Over 1,000 people died in the riots.

Modi denied allegations that authorities under his supervision authorized or even encouraged the bloodshed, and said the Supreme Court had found no evidence to indict him.

Political analyst Niranjan Mukhopadhyay said the ruling party was increasingly angered by Gandhi’s corruption allegations and that Gandhi’s attack on the Adani group was “going too far for the ruling party.”

Gandhi’s ouster also came after 14 political parties filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court alleging that the Modi government was involved in an investigation of politically motivated financial crimes by opposition leaders. The Supreme Court said it would take up the petition in the first week of April. India bans convicted Modi critic from parliament WGN Radio 720

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