India’s Rahul Gandhi says he won’t stop questioning Modi
© Reuters. Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, waves to his party staff as he arrives at New Delhi airport, after appearing before a court in Surat, western state Gujarat, India, March 23, 2023. REUTERS /adna
By YP Rajesh
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said he had been removed from parliament because he had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi tough questions about his relationship with Gautam Adani, Founder of the Adani Group.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party responded that Gandhi was punished by law for a defamatory comment he made in 2019 and that it had nothing to do with the Adani issue.
Gandhi, the former chairman of India’s main opposition Congress party and still its main leader, lost his seat in parliament on Friday, a day after a court in the western state of Gujarat convicted him. in a defamation case and sentenced him to two years in prison. .
The court granted him bail and suspended his prison sentence for 30 days, allowing him to appeal.
A defamation lawsuit has been filed regarding comments Gandhi made during a speech that many consider insulting to Modi. Gandhi’s party and its allies criticized the court’s ruling as politically motivated.
“I was disqualified because the prime minister was afraid of my next speech, he was afraid the next speech would be with Adani,” Gandhi told a news conference at the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi.
“They don’t want that speech in parliament, that’s the problem,” Gandhi said in his first public comments since his conviction and disqualification.
Gandhi, 52, descended from a dynasty that has given India three prime ministers, did not explain why Modi might not like his next speech.
Gandhi’s once dominant parliament controlled less than 10% of the seats elected in the lower house of parliament and was destroyed by the BJP in two consecutive general elections, most recently in 2019.
India’s next general election will be in mid-2024 and Gandhi has recently been trying to revive the party’s fortunes.
“I’m not afraid of being disqualified… I’ll keep asking, ‘what is the prime minister’s relationship with Mr. Adani?’,” Gandhi said on Saturday.
Modi’s opponents say the prime minister and the BJP have a long relationship with the Adani group, dating back to nearly two decades when Modi was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat. Gautam Adani is also from Gujarat.
The congressional party has questioned state-owned investments in Adani’s companies and the handover of management of six airports to the group in recent years, despite their lack of experience. in this field.
The Adani group has denied receiving any special favors from the government and government ministers have dismissed the opposition’s proposals as “extravagant accusations”, saying regulators Justice will look into any misconduct.
Congress and opposition allies have called for a congressional investigation.
“The life of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an open book about honesty,” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference held in response to Gandhi’s statements on Saturday.
“We don’t have to protect Adani, the BJP never protects Adani, but the BJP doesn’t target anyone either,” Prasad said, accusing Gandhi of a habit of lying.
A former federal minister, Prasad listed the international business deals that the Adani group signed when a Congress-led coalition government ruled India from 2004 to 2014 and their investments into the Indian states ruled by Congress.
“So how does the Adani corporation invest 650 billion rupees ($7.89 billion) in a state ruled by your party,” Prasad asked, referring to the group’s October announcement that it would invest investing in solar energy, cement and airports in this region. western state of Rajasthan, ruled by Parliament.
Adani’s team is trying to rebuild investor confidence after US short-seller Hindenburg Research accused it of stock manipulation and improper use of tax havens – allegations the company rejected.
Hindenburg’s January 24 report has eroded more than $100 billion in the value of the company’s stock.
($1 = 82,3340 Indian rupees)