After Rahul Gandhi Setback, Congress Takes On Job To Build Opposition Unity In 'Systematic' Way

The disqualification of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi comes following his conviction by a Gujarat court in a defamation case a day ago, in which he was sentenced to two years in jail.

Congress meeting at AICC HQ

Hours after Congress senior leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from Lok Sabha, the grand old party on Friday said it was time for the party to take on the job of building opposition unity in a “systematic way”.  Leaders of almost all opposition parties today rallied around Gandhi, after his disqualification as a Member of the Parliament and accused the BJP of doing "vindictive politics".

The action against the former Congress president comes following his conviction by a Gujarat court in a defamation case a day ago, in which he was sentenced to two years in jail.

Welcoming the statements of opposition leaders, the Congress said it has been coordinating with various opposition parties in Parliament and now the coordination has to be outside the two Houses as well.

Congress said it will fight the battle legally and politically for its former president. 

Several leaders from Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party and Bharat Rashtra Samithi, among others, condemned the disqualification, calling it a ‘murder’ of democracy and a political conspiracy. 

Addressing a press conference at AICC headquarters, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the party welcomes the statements by opposition leaders condemning the action against Gandhi.

"Yes, there was a consensus that we should now take the job of building opposition unity in a systematic way. Everyday Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has been meeting floor leaders of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. So we are coordinating in Parliament and now coordination has to be outside Parliament," he said after a meeting of the top brass of the party, including party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and former AICC chief Sonia Gandhi.

"It is also heartening to note that parties which were not part of this floor coordination in Parliament have now issued public statements condemning this action of disqualification of Rahul Gandhi," Ramesh added.

State units and frontal organisations of the Congress will launch different programmes across the country and they will begin from Monday with a countrywide agitation, he said.

"We will go all over the country saying that Rahul Gandhi has been deliberately disqualified, as he has been raising his voice against the Modi government on various issues including demonetisation, GST, foreign policy, and the government's intentions and policies," Ramesh said.

Was Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification unavoidable?

As per the Lok Sabha Secretariat notification, Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified under Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which is enabled by Article 102 (1) (e) of the Constitution of India. 

The rule states that any lawmaker sentenced to not less than two years upon conviction will be disqualified. 

What happens now?

As per the law, Rahul Gandhi is now out of electoral politics for the next eight years. 

However, Gandhi can appeal against his conviction and sentencing at the higher courts but the Congress is yet to do so.