Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched a strong attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi today after the Lok Sabha removed Rahul Gandhi as its member, following his conviction in a criminal defamation case linked to a comment on the surname "Modi".
"Our forefathers fought for freedom and to make India free from the British. But today's government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more dangerous than the British... This is not just the Congress's fight. This is a fight to save the country," Mr Kejriwal, who also heads the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said in the Delhi assembly this evening.
Mr Kejriwal joins a long list of opposition leaders who have condemned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over what they called the use of a frivolous and bizarre case to target Mr Gandhi a year before the national election.
A court in Surat in Gujarat - PM Modi's home state - on Thursday sentenced Mr Gandhi to two years in jail in the criminal defamation case filed by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi over the Congress leader's comment asking whether those who have "Modi" as surname are "thieves". Mr Gandhi has 30 days to challenge the conviction in higher courts.
"The way his (Mr Gandhi's Lok Sabha) membership has been suspended is a cowardly act. That's a sign of a scared government. They want to create such an environment that there is only one party and only one leader left in the country," Mr Kejriwal said.
BJP leaders have said the remark by Mr Gandhi was a smear against all those sharing the Modi surname, which is associated with Other Backward Classes, or OBCs. They said Mr Gandhi's conviction has got nothing to do with them and the case followed the due process of law.
"Rahul Gandhi made very derogatory remark and disgraced an entire OBC (Other Backward Classes) Community. Shockingly, some Congress leaders are trying to defend it," BJP leader and Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said.