NEARBY — Rahul Gandhi was reinstated as a member of the Indian Parliament on Monday, three days after the country’s top court overturned his criminal criticism conviction for insulting the state leader’s family name.
The opposition’s efforts to corner Narendra Modi’s administration ahead of this week’s no-confidence vote over the fatal ethnic violence that has rocked India’s northeastern state of Manipur for more than three months are likely to be strengthened by his reappointment as a member of parliament.
Gandhi, a vocal opponent of Modi and the primary contender in the elections of 2024, was expelled from Parliament after being found guilty by a magistrate’s court in March. His conviction was temporarily stayed by the Supreme Court on Friday as it carefully considered Gandhi’s appeal before rendering a decision.
Gandhi will be entitled to run in the general elections of next year until a final court judgement rules against him, according to the court’s order.
In the defamation complaint, Gandhi’s remarks from a 2019 election speech were at issue. Gandhi questioned, “Why do all thieves have the surname Modi?” He then made reference to three well-known but unconnected Modis: the prime minister, an exiled cricket executive banned from the Indian Premier League, and an Indian diamond billionaire on the run.
Purnesh Modi, a member of Gujarat state’s Bharatiya Janata Party but not the prime minister’s relative, filed the lawsuit.
Gandhi was given a two-year prison term, but in April, the court halted it. He appealed the conviction to the nation’s Supreme Court last month after the Gujarat state High Court upheld it.
As the latest attack on democracy and free speech by a government aiming to stifle dissent, the case against Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and heir to the dynastic Congress party, was roundly attacked by opponents of Modi. His expulsion from Parliament so quickly stunned Indian politics.
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India is the most populous country in the world, with 1.4 billion people, yet Modi’s detractors claim that democracy has declined since he took office in 2014. They charge that his administration has a Hindu nationalist agenda. The government disputes that, claiming that all Indians benefit from its initiatives.
There have been two other prime ministers from the Nehru-Gandhi family. Both Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s father, were assassinated while they were in positions of authority.