India's opposition leaders storm parliament over Rahul Gandhi's expulsion

Congress party chief says move linked to questions he raised about government's ties to billionaire businessman Gautam Adani

Supporters of India's Congress Party protest in New Delhi after leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from India's parliament. Reuters
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India’s opposition leaders on Monday stormed parliament in protest against Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as an MP in a criminal defamation case linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Dressed in black, the opposition leaders — backing Mr Gandhi's Congress party — threw papers in the Speaker's face during a protest that led to an adjournment.

The leaders, led by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, then launched a protest rally outside the parliament, carrying black placards and demanding an investigation into multi-billionaire Gautam Adani’s alleged fraud and Mr Gandhi’s disqualification.

Mr Gandhi, 52, an MP for nearly two decades, was disqualified on Friday, a day after a court in the western state of Gujarat convicted him in a defamation case to a 2019 election speech in which he referred to “many thieves” having the same surname as Mr Modi.

He was sentenced to two years in jail, but granted bail. The court also suspended his jail sentence for 30 days, allowing him to appeal.

Mr Gandhi’s mother and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi joined the protest.

The leaders chanted “save democracy”. One protester wore a black watch to show that the “Modi government’s time was up”.

“I want to thank all opposition parties for extending their support to Rahul Gandhi,” Mr Kharge said.

“Why are we here in black clothes? We want to show that PM Modi is ending democracy in the country. He first finished autonomous bodies, then they put up their own government everywhere by threatening those who had won polls.”

Congress workers carrying black flags also protested at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a public park and heritage site. Demonstrations have broken out in several parts of the country in support of Mr Gandhi.

Mr Gandhi was already under fire from Mr Modi’s government over recent remarks in London, where he accused the Prime Minister of “stifling” the opposition's voice and threatening Indian democracy.

He also demanded a parliamentary investigation into Mr Adani’s port-to-energy business empire and his relationship with Mr Modi.

Mr Adani, considered the world's third richest person earlier this year, has suffered a sharp drop in fortunes after allegations by US-based investment research firm Hindenburg of corporate malpractice, artificially boosting share prices, market manipulation and accounting fraud in his business empire.

Mr Gandhi on Sunday blamed Mr Modi for his expulsion, saying the move was linked to questions he raised about the government's ties to Mr Adani.

Updated: March 27, 2023, 8:10 AM