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India: Parliament adjourned amid pro-Rahul Gandhi protest

Nidhi Suresh
March 27, 2023

Opposition lawmakers protested during the parliamentary session over the expulsion of Rahul Gandhi.

A protester holds a poste during a protest march in India.
Opposition parties protest against Rahul Gandhi's expulsion from the parliament. Image: Bikas Das/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Indian parliament on Monday was adjourned as opposition lawmakers protested the expulsion of opposition leader Rahul Gandhi.

Gandhi, former president of the Congress party, was stripped of his parliamentary seat on Friday.

This came a day after he was convicted in a defamation case and sentenced to two years in prison in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat. He was immediately granted bail.

Critics say that his dismissal from parliament heightens concerns about the creeping authoritarianism in the world's largest democracy.

India's Gandhi removed from parliament

Chaos in the parliament

Opposition lawmakers held a meeting led by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge in the parliament building on Monday morning, according to the Economic Times newspaper.

Multiple opposition parties from across the country participated in the meeting.

When the parliamentary session opened, the Congress leaders entered wearing black shirts and scarves.

Some of them tore paper and hurled it at Om Birla, the speaker of the lower house, the Indian Express reported. 

Oppostion leader Rahul Gandhi speaks at a press conference.
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was stripped of his parliamentary seat on Friday. Image: Altaf Qadri/AP/picture alliance

"I want to run the House with dignity," said Birla before adjourning the session until 4 p.m. local time.

Ahead of the parliamentary session on Monday, Congress parliamentarian Pramod Tiwari told news agency ANI that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) "time is up."

Rahul Gandhi pushes to investigate Adani

After Gandhi's expulsion, several opposition parties held a protest march in the capital city of New Delhi on Friday.

They alleged that "democracy is in danger" and pushed the government to investigate the allegations against India's most powerful business tycoon Gautam Adani.

Adani has been under scrutiny after US-based investment short-selling firm Hindenburg Research recently released a scathing report outlining allegations of accounting fraud and market manipulation at Adani Group.

For over a month, Congress has been pointing out Prime Minister Narendra Modi's close relationship with Adani and demanded an investigation into the industrialist.

"I have been disqualified because the prime minister… is scared of the next speech that is going to come on Adani. I will continue to ask the question – what is the prime minister's relationship with Mr Adani?" asked Rahul Gandhi at a press conference on Saturday.

Sentenced for defamation 

Rahul Gandhi was sentenced for a comment he made in 2019, when he asked why "all thieves have Modi as [their] common surname."

His remarks were seen as a dig against Modi who has won two elections since then.

Members of the government filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi, alleging that his words were insulting.

The Congress leader faces several other defamation cases and a money-laundering case that has been snaking its way through India's glacial legal system for more than a decade.

Edited by: Farah Bahgat