DC Edit | Rahul's return as MP will give boost to Opposition in Parliament
The return of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Parliament on Monday reflects the sagacity and vibrancy of the system of checks and balances Indian democracy has designed and installed and its ability to make course correction when it discovers that it has gone astray. Mr Gandhi’s return is made possible after the Supreme Court found that the chief judicial magistrate in Surat, Gujarat, offered no reason to substantiate awarding the maximum punishment of two years in jail to Mr Gandhi in a defamation case related to him linking the surname ‘Modi’ and ‘thieves’. It may be recalled that the apex court had pointedly observed that one day less in the sentence would have allowed him to retain his elected membership in the House of the People, taking umbrage at the way a defamation case — a non-cognisable, bailable and compoundable — was handled.
Looking back at the events since March 23, 2023, when Mr Gandhi was convicted, one could identify the pattern of targeting the face of the Opposition in the world’s largest democracy. The Lok Sabha Secretariat issued a notification in 24 hours disqualifying Mr Gandhi as a member of the Lok Sabha invoking Section 8 in the Representation of the People Act, 1951. It was soon followed up by a notice of eviction from a residential accommodation which was allotted to him as an MP. Mr Gandhi complied with the notice and vacated what was his house for nearly two decades as per the deadline. Given the concern the Supreme Court expressed in the Wayanad constituency going unrepresented in the House, the Lok Sabha Secretariat acted fast to restore his membership, not in 24 hours but in three days. His return to the residential accommodation would perhaps mark the end of a vicious campaign and unholy haste shown in the entire episode.
Mr Gandhi will now be part of the parliamentary contingent of the Opposition INDIA bloc at a time it has moved a no-confidence motion against the government led by Prime Minister Naredra Modi. The Opposition gave the notice for the motion against a government which has only months in power as a strategy to make the Prime Minister break his silence and speak on the floor of the House on a tragedy that has been visiting an Indian state for the last three months. Mr Modi need not necessarily touch the subject but the Opposition can still expose the way the governments at the Centre and in the state made a mess of a communal strife in Manipur. Mr Gandhi could be the obvious choice to lead the INDIA efforts in Parliament.
The political significance of Mr Gandhi being back as an MP will be reflected in the hectic days ahead of the general election. The BJP could have always made an Achilles’ heel of Mr Gandhi, convicted and stripped of his position as an MP, ineligible to contest an election leave alone lead a government. As reflected in his Twitter profile, his change from being a ‘Dis’qualified’ MP’ to ‘Member of Parliament’ denies that luxury to the BJP and its apparatchiks. They will, instead, have to face a reenergised Opposition which has scored a moral victory against the the NDA which was out to humiliate their commander-in-chief at every given occasion. The game now gets all the more interesting.