There's no need to be afraid, Tejashwi Yadav underlined today echoing Rahul Gandhi, who was found guilty of defamation for a 2019 campaign trail remark implying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a criminal.
The Gujarat court's verdict is the latest legal action against opposition party figures and institutions seen as critical of the Modi government.
Targeting the Centre, the Bihar Deputy Chief Minister said "Modiiji is nervous" and the spate of action against opposition leaders has been unprecedented.
"We need to fight with strength. This shows Modiji is nervous; he is not confident about 2024 general election. Nothing like this has ever happened before in this country. If they do stay for a few more years, they will finish off democracy, constitution in in this country," said Mr Yadav, whose Delhi home was recently raided by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the land-for-jobs case.
"There's no need to be afraid," he stressed again.
"लोगों को डरने की नहीं, लड़ने की जरूरत" : विपक्षी नेताओं के खिलाफ कार्रवाई को लेकर बोले #TejashwiYadavpic.twitter.com/0o6vSHqClW— NDTV India (@ndtvindia) March 23, 2023
The case against Rahul Gandhi stemmed from a remark made during the 2019 election campaign in which the 52-year-old had asked why "all thieves have Modi as (their) common surname".
In his first comment after the verdict, Mr Gandhi quoted Mahatma Gandhi, tweeting in Hindi, "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it."
"When the magistrate asked Gandhi what he had to say in his defence, the Congress leader said that he was fighting to expose corruption in the country," said the Congress leader's lawyer, BM Mangukiya, told reporters outside the court.
"His comments were not meant to hurt or insult any community," his lawyer added.
Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party - which does not share a cosy relationship with the Congress -- was the first to come out in support of Mr Gandhi.
"A conspiracy is being hatched to eliminate non-BJP leaders and parties by prosecuting them. We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this... It is the job of the public and the opposition to ask questions. We respect the court but disagree with the decision," Mr Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.
DMK's TR Balu said the verdict makes it clear that "freedom of expression is under threat".