On March 23, Rahul Gandhi was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment in a defamation case; he was disqualified as an MP from the Lok Sabha (LS)
Triggering a major row, German foreign ministry on Thursday said that they have “taken note” of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha. The comment led to a war of words between Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Congress leaders. In a tweet, Rijiju today stated, “Thank you Rahul Gandhi for inviting foreign powers for interference into India’s internal matters. Remember, Indian Judiciary can’t be influenced by foreign interference. India won’t tolerate ‘foreign influence’ anymore because our Prime Minister is:- Shri @narendramodi Ji”.
Rijiju’s remark was in response to senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh’s tweet thanking the German foreign affairs ministry for “taking note of how democracy is being compromised through persecution of Rahul Gandhi”.
Taking to Twitter, Digvijaya Singh said, “Thank you German Foreign Affairs Ministry and Richard Walker for taking note of how the Democracy is being compromised in India through the persecution of Rahul Gandhi.”
On March 23, Rahul Gandhi was convicted by a Surat district court and sentenced to two years imprisonment in the 2019 defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark made in 2019 during an election rally in Karnataka. After being convicted by the court, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha.
The sentence of two-year imprisonment has been suspended for 30 days before which Rahul Gandhi has to appeal against the conviction. The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha has been one in a series of flashpoints between the Congress party and the ruling BJP, uniting the opposition parties who have been accusing the Centre of diverting attention from the Adani issue.
During a press briefing that was aired on German state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), a German ministry spokesperson stated that her country “expects that the standards of judicial independence and fundamental democratic principles will apply in the case.”
“We have taken note of the verdict of the first instance against the Indian opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as well as the suspension of his parliamentary mandate. To our knowledge, Mr Gandhi is in a position to appeal the verdict,” she is heard saying in the clip of the briefing shared with English subtitles on Twitter by Richard Walkar the Chief International Editor of DW.
The German ministry spokesperson added, “It will then become clear whether this verdict will stand and whether the suspension of his mandate has any basis.”
Earlier this week, US Department of State Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said that the US is watching Rahul Gandhi’s case in Indian courts.
Patel, responding to a question on Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification said that the US engages with the Indian government on a shared commitment to democratic values, including freedom of expression.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday lashed out at the Congress party after party leader Digvijay Singh thanked the German Foreign Affairs Ministry for taking note of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha.
The Union Minister said that it is apparent that the grand old party wants foreign interference in “our” affairs. Referring to Digvijay Singh’s tweet, Sitharaman took to Twitter and said, “Apparent that @INCIndia wants foreign interference in our affairs. Sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Communist Party of China with opaque contents. During interactions abroad, plead for help to change government. Thank them when help forthcoming. Any more proof needed?” she added.
Under sharp attack from the BJP, the Congress on Thursday sought to distance itself from remarks of party leader Digvijaya Singh over the German Foreign Ministry’s remarks on the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha, saying that the party firmly believes that India’s democratic processes themselves have to deal with the “threats posed to democracy”.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said Congress and Rahul Gandhi don’t believe to fight India’s “democratic, political and legal battle within country”. “Disgrace to nation, @INCIndia & @RahulGandhi don’t believe to fight India’s democratic, political & legal battle within country, hence, invite foreign powers to interfere in our internal matter. But New India headed by @narendramodi Ji will not tolerate any foreign intervention,” Thakur said.