New Delhi [India], March 24 (ANI): Opposition leaders on Friday came out in support of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the wake of his disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha, calling it a "black day" for Indian democracy.
Rahul was disqualified from the Lok Sabha after his conviction by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case.
Opposition parties, including those that are opposed to the Congress and are said to be mulling over the formation of a Third Front against the BJP in next year's Lok Sabha elections, stood in support of the Congress leader.
Among prominent Opposition players coming out in Rahul's support were Congress allies in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiva Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which doesn't see eye-to-eye with the grand old party in most matters.
AAP Supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said those who want to "destroy the nation" should stay in the BJP while those who want to "save the nation" from ruin must leave.
"Never before in the history of India was there a PM, who is just a 12th pass. He can't run the country and lets his ego guide his actions. I urge all BJP leaders to consider leaving the party as the country is being destroyed under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those who want the nation destroyed can stay with the BJP while those who want to save it from ruin must leave," Kejriwal said.
"Now the people of the country will have to come forward and fight this undemocratic regime. If we want to save the country, 130 crore Indians will have to come forward and lead the fight. It doesn't matter which party comes to power. What is of concern is the way our democracy is being tarnished and attacked," the Delhi CM added.
TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been a fierce critic of the BJP and the central government, also came out in support of Rahul saying that while Opposition leaders are being disqualified over speeches, BJP leaders with "criminal antecedents" were being made ministers.
"In PM Modi's New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of the BJP! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches. Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy," the TMC Supremo said.
Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who has been sounding out like-minded Opposition players for an anti-BJP front sans the Congress, too, called Rahul's disqualification as an MP a "black day" for democracy and the "height of PM Modi's arrogance".
"Today is a Black Day in the history of Indian democracy. Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Parliament is the height of Narendra Modi's arrogance and dictatorship. This is not the time for conflicts between parties. All democrats should openly condemn the misdeeds of the BJP govt to safeguard the democracy and constitutional values of the country," he said.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who once allied with the Congress for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and later parted ways after a crushing defeat, also condemned Rahul's disqualification.
"The political challenge does not end with the hijacking of one's membership of Parliament. The biggest movement is not the one in Parliament. We have to win this fight on the streets. The person who moved court claiming defamation should level a similar charge at people, who betrayed their country and fled abroad," Akhilesh tweeted in Hindi.
DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, meanwhile, called for an urgent relook at the action taken against Rahul Gandhi.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the decision to disqualify Rahul was taken in "haste" and is "yet another episode in BJP's authoritarian rampage against Indian democracy".
"This brazen assault is an insult to our democratic values and can't be overlooked. It must be unequivocally denounced," Vijayan tweeted.
NCP and the Uddhav faction of the Shiv Sena, too, threw their combined political weight behind the Congress leader, unleashing a scathing attack at the Centre.
"Our constitution guarantees the right of each individual to fair justice; liberty of thought; equality of status and opportunity and fraternity assuring the dignity of each Indian. The disqualifications of Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mr Faizal a few months ago as MPs of the Lok Sabha are against the basic tenets of the constitution, where democratic values are being curtailed. This is condemnable and against the very principles on which the constitution is based. We all need to stand together to defend our democratic institutions," tweeted NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar.
Labelling the disqualification as a "murder of democracy", Uddhav said this was the beginning of the "end of dictatorship".
"Rahul Gandhi's candidacy has been cancelled. Calling a thief, a thief has become a crime in our country. Thieveslooters are still free and Rahul Gandhi was punished. This is a direct murder of democracy. All govt systems are under pressure. This is the beginning of the end of the dictatorship. Only the fight has to be given direction," he said.
Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge said, "They (BJP) tried every trick in the book to disqualify him. They don't want MPs who speak the truth. But we will continue to stand for the truth. We'll continue to demand a JPC (in the Hindenburg-Adani row) and will even go to jail to save democracy."Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the move to disqualify Rahul from the Lok Sabha will "cost" the BJP dear in the next Lok Sabha elections.
"Ever since the Bharat Jodo Yatra concluded successfully, the government is perturbed. The manner in which Rahul Gandhi, a patriot who belongs to a family that took part in the freedom struggle and whose grandmother and father laid down their lives for the country, has been stopped not just from speaking in the Parliament but even entering the building. They (BJP) will have to pay a price for this," Gehlot told ANI.
"They had harassed Indira Gandhi as well and she was disqualified from the Parliament. They paid the price as there was a wave for Indira Gandhi and she returned as PM with a massive majority. I can say that with the recent activities, our chances in the 2024 election will be boosted manifold. People won't tolerate such a dictatorial government," he added.
Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Rahul's disqualification was nothing but an expression of the politics of vendetta.
"It is a sheer case of retributive politics as Rahul Gandhi has been gaining popularity in the wake of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The Modi government cannot digest his rising popularity. This is a very cruel demonstration of an autocratic government," he said.
Telangana Congress chief Revanth Reddy said that Rahul's disqualification as an MP is nothing but an attempt to divert the attention of the people from the more pressing issues affecting the people.
"These are all non-democratic steps. The decision was taken by pressurising the Lok Sabha Secretariat. This was done to divert the attention of people from the main issue (JPC probe into the Adani Group). The Congress and the Gandhis are not afraid of them (BJP)," he said.
"PM Modi had once called Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury 'Surpanakha' in the Rajya Sabha. Despite being a PM, he made such a derogatory remark about her. They are just trying to scare the Gandhi family but we all are with them," Reddy added.
Taking to Twitter to voice her outrage against Rahul's disqualification, Renuka Chowdhury posted, "This classless megalomaniac referred to me as Surpanakha on the floor of the House. I will file a defamation case against him. Let's see how fast our courts act."RJD leader and Bihar minister Tej Pratap Yadav said the disqualification is part of a larger conspiracy.
"The people of Bihar and the entire nation can see what they (BJP) are doing. All such decisions are being taken at their (BJP's) orders," he said.
Congress leader and former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat said Rahul's disqualification will be the turning point in the country.
"We'll fight strongly against this attack on our democracy. Yesterday, it was 'Shaheed Diwas' (the day to commemorate the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru) and the political sacrifice by Rahul Gandhi today will be the turning point in the country. The country will win this fight to save democracy," he said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the disqualification of an elected member of Parliament has sent a "poor signal" to the world about the state of Indian democracy.
"I was stunned by this decision and particularly by the unseemly haste with which it was carried out. The lawyers will certainly be questioning this. It sends a very poor signal to the world about Indian democracy when the leader of the principal opposition party is treated in this way. You can't muzzle voices in a democracy and still call yourself democratic," Tharoor told ANI.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said, "Rahul Gandhi can return to the Parliament by contesting from some other constituency. Winning the election isn't his priority. He is worried about our democracy being murdered. Rahul Gandhi strengthened our democracy through the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' and the BJP got scared of it."Congress workers in Lucknow were detained earlier in the day during a protest against the disqualification of Rahul as a member of Parliament. (ANI)