India’s Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison and expelled from parliament over remarks deemed
India’s Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison and expelled from parliament over remarks deemed offensive to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The conviction stemmed from Ghandi’s 2019 general election campaign speech in which he stated, “Why do all these thieves have the name of Modi”. While the charges against Ghandi centered on defamation toward Indians with the surname Modi, observers note that the flimsy charges are likely a ploy to eliminate Modi’s most prominent political opponent. Ghandi’s sentencing is a striking example of what Modi’s critics have called a tendency towards autocracy that he and the BJP have exhibited since taking power in 2014.
Gandhi is a member of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, which held the Prime Minister’s office for its first 40 years post-independence. While the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress Party have long been champions of secular government, Modi has sought to pivot India toward a Hindu-centric state, in line with Hindutva ideology. Gandhi’s conviction and disqualification in next year’s general election eliminates a significant obstacle in enacting Hindu nationalist ideas into law.
Global reactions to the event have so far been relatively limited as major powers like China, the United States, and Europe remained fixed on the Russo-Ukraine conflict. Domestically, the incident is likely to prompt high levels of communal tension at a time when the BJP and Hindu nationalist movement have become more emboldened in advancing their agendas. Modi and the BJP are likely to respond by emphasizing grievances over the Congress Party and the Nehru-Gandhi family’s often controversial time in office.