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The world’s largest democracy is becoming less free

Tonhe is the world The largest democracy has been hit hard. On March 24, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of India’s Congress party and the country’s most prominent opposition figure, was dismissed after a court sentenced him to two years in prison on what Mr Gandhi said was a false defamation charge. eligible to sit in Parliament. The prime minister’s son, grandson and great-grandson, he has vowed to appeal his conviction, handed down by a district court in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Even if Mr Gandhi escapes jail, however, he may not be cleared in time to lead his party into next year’s general election.

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The court ruling comes after weeks of spats between Mr Gandhi and members of Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata PartyPeople’s Party). Mr Gandhi has repeatedly called for an investigation into Mr Modi’s ties to billionaire Adani, whose business practices and intimacy with power have come under scrutiny.In a series of speeches in Britain, he also criticized the state of democracy in India, prompting People’s Party Blocking parliamentary business while demanding an apology from Mr Gandhi for allegedly insulting India abroad.

The Congress leader was sued for defamation in Gujarat for a satirical statement he made on a tree stump in 2019. He had pointed out that a pair of well-known fugitives in the Indian judiciary were named Modi, a common surname in western India. Anyone who observes India’s gritty politics will see this rhetoric as normal.this People’s Partymr gandhi’s standard nickname is Papp (“Fool”). However, the minor Purnesh Modi People’s Party A politician unrelated to the prime minister claimed that Mr Gandhi’s remarks had deeply hurt him and his community.

The court ruled in Purnesh Modi’s favor on March 23. Legal experts said it was an unusually harsh sentence for Mr Gandhi. It was also precisely the shortest jail time that triggered the automatic expulsion from the Indian Parliament. Mr Gandhi was kicked out the next day.

India’s opposition leaders increasingly find themselves facing legal difficulties. Two leaders of the Aam Aadmi party, another key opposition group, have strained relations with the government’s Enforcement Agency, which investigates economic crimes. However, Mr Gandhi’s troubles appear to represent a major escalation. People’s DailyThe hunt for the opponent. Even if his appeal is successful, it will take time. So this event will make Mr Gandhi less effective at the helm of Congress than he has been thus far (which says something).What happened to him may also be taken as a warning by other opposition leaders not to criticize Mr Modi and Mr Modi too directly. People’s Party.

This seems unwarranted, considering Mr Gandhi is not much of a threat to Mr Modi.congress was defeated People’s Daily After two general elections in a row, and with little sign of recovery ahead of next year’s vote. The government has also made no effort to resist Mr Gandhi’s demands to investigate Mr Modi’s involvement in Adani.Even so, Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, said Mr Gandhi’s tit-for-tat was too much for veterans People’s Daily Members put up with it: “One reason for their success is that no threat to them is too small to be obsessed with.”

Mr Gandhi’s harsh treatment is at least likely to backfire. His decision to be disqualified from parliament was condemned by opposition leaders in other countries in a rare act of solidarity. However, Gandhi princelings are unlikely victims. His party activists have so far failed to rally street protests on his behalf. And the leader of the region’s biggest political party, Mr Modi’s toughest challenger, has shown little willingness to work with him.

More likely, the lengthy legal process before Mr Gandhi will benefit People’s Daily government. His case will continue to dominate the headlines, making it difficult for Congress or any other opposition party to mount a serious attack on his record. The only indisputable victim of this regrettable farce will be India’s increasingly democratic Modi.

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