In Support For Rahul Gandhi, Congress Sees Opportunity To Unite Opposition

Congress's Ashok Gehlot pointed out the support from Opposition parties and said this could be a way for opposition unity.

Rahul Gandhi was found guilty in a defamation case. (File)

New Delhi:

In the support that Rahul Gandhi received from Opposition parties after his disqualification from the Parliament, the Congress has found an opportunity to take further its attempt to unite the parties opposed to the ruling BJP.

Mr Gandhi's conviction in a defamation case and his consequent removal from the Lok Sabha last week witnessed backlash from a vocal and united Opposition. The Congress, the main opposition party in the parliament, has welcomed this rare show of support.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a Gandhi family loyalist, said people were unhappy earlier with other parties as they were not coming together when the country is not going in the right direction.

"But now they have started backing us and everybody is happy with their support," he said at a protest against Mr Gandhi's disqualification in Delhi.

"I am happy that all opposition parties are standing together with Rahul ji. I want to thank them as they stood with us at such a time to save democracy," said Mallikarjun Kharge, who heads the Congress party.

His colleague Jairam Ramesh, a party veteran, had earlier said the Opposition parties should take the issue of opposition unity forward in a systematic way.

"The Congress president has been coordinating with opposition parties every day in parliament, now this has to be done outside also," he had said.

Opposition unity remains a hot topic ahead of next year's national elections, a precursor to electing the Prime Minister by elected representatives.

The fractured opposition has been one of the greatest advantages for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party. Attempts to unite the resisting non-BJP voices are yet to show positive results as they scramble to find common ground over their diverse ambitions.

Congress leaders had asserted no opposition front was possible without it amid a buzz over a third front by regional leaders that would exclude the BJP and the Congress.

Mr Gandhi's Lok Sabha membership was cancelled after he was convicted in a defamation case for saying PM Modi shared the same last name as fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.

"How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname," he had said at a pre-election rally, a remark that the ruling BJP projected as a smear campaign against those with the Modi surname, shared by an electorally critical disadvantaged community.

A court in Gujarat, the home state of PM Modi, sentenced Mr Gandhi to two years in jail, but he was allowed to walk free on bail to appeal the verdict. The conviction made him ineligible to continue as a Lok Sabha member and was stripped of his Parliament seat the very next day, which angered the Opposition.