The BJP on Friday panned Rahul Gandhi as a "habitual offender" who believed the law did not apply to him and asserted that neither the party nor the government had any role in his disqualification from Lok Sabha as the Supreme Court has made it clear that a lawmaker loses his membership from the time of his conviction in a criminal case.
Addressing a press conference, Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Anurag Thakur also suggested that a conspiracy within the Congress might have played a role in its leaders not approaching a higher court for relief for Mr Gandhi after his conviction on Thursday as it had done so in the case of Pawan Khera within hours of the Assam Police arresting him.
Who are the people within the Congress wanting to get rid of Rahul Gandhi, Mr Thakur asked, noting that the party has a battery of lawyers and wondering if the former party president was deliberately put on the "wrong path".
The Congress has so far not appealed against the Surat court order convicting Mr Gandhi in a 2019 defamation case to two years of imprisonment.
With the Congress slamming the government over his disqualification, alleging that it signifies "strangulation of democracy" with the ruling dispensation finding new techniques of "gagging" him, BJP leaders hit back.
"Congress party, especially the Nehru-Gandhi family, wants a separate Indian Penal Code under which they cannot be convicted. They want a separate judiciary. They suffer from a sense of entitlement and feudal mindset. They fail to understand that in a democracy the law is equal for all," Mr Pradhan said.
"Rahul Gandhi is a habitual offender and loose cannon. He thought he could say anything without facing any consequences," Mr Thakur said, noting that the Congress leader is on bail in seven different cases.
Mr Gandhi has always considered himself above Parliament, government and the country, the BJP leader said while referring to his alleged recent insulting remarks about the Indian democracy in the UK.
He had to apologise to the Supreme Court for his defamatory remarks in the Rafale case but did not mend his ways, the information and broadcasting minister said.
Both leaders also made light of opposition parties rallying around Mr Gandhi on the issue and criticising the government for its "dictatorial" manners.
Mr Pradhan said one zero joining another zero does not change the outcome.
They all can stand together but the country stands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Thakur said, claiming that BJP's rivals are angry with PM Modi as coming from a humble background he has brought glory and prestige to India globally.
Many foreign leaders have also acknowledged his leadership, he added.
The statement by opposition parties is against India's democracy and the mandate of the poor and backwards for PM Modi, Mr Thakur said.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat disqualified Mr Gandhi as MP from Wayanad in Kerala a day after he was convicted in a 2019 criminal defamation case for his remark "How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?" Following his disqualification, he would not be able to contest elections for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction and sentence.
The Lok Sabha Speaker has only confirmed the legal position by with his speaking order, Mr Thakur said.
Mr Pradhan, an OBC leader from Odisha, accused Mr Gandhi of "abusing" an entire backward community. "Law is equal for everyone," he added.
The BJP leaders noted that several lawmakers, in Lok Sabha and state assemblies, have been disqualified on similar grounds in the past.
Mr Thakur said Mr Gandhi epitomised "unparliamentary" conduct and also pointed out his poor legislative track record in Lok Sabha to claim that people of Wayanad will be relieved to get rid of him.
Mr Thakur also condemned Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for his "most corrupt" jibe at PM Modi. The BJP doesn't need a certificate from someone whose entry in politics was based on "lies", with many of his ministers charged in cases of corruption. PM Modi has dedicated every moment of his life for developing country, he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)