On Rahul Gandhi Legal Strategy, Senior Congress Leader Concedes "Slip-Up"

If Rahul Gandhi's conviction is not overturned, he will not be allowed to contest elections for eight years.

Rahul Gandhi was convicted of criminal defamation by a court in Gujarat.

New Delhi:

Senior Congress leader and Chhattisgarh minister TS Singh Deo on Saturday conceded that those handling top party boss Rahul Gandhi's legal strategy may have slipped up on his conviction in a defamation case and the resulting disqualification from parliament.

"As far as the legal strategy is concerned, maybe there was a slip-up. It cannot be denied. When Pawan Khera was deplaned, there was an immediate response. Maybe the [disqualification] order being taken out the next day wasn't expected," he told NDTV.

Mr Singh Deo was referring to the incident when senior Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera was not allowed to fly out of Delhi last month over a police case. He was allowed to take a flight later in the day after the Congress went to the Supreme Court at once.

"I have no hesitation in saying the people looking after this should have been more alert and aware. There is no doubt," Mr Singh Deo said.

The Congress leader also said the reason the party was raising the conviction and the disqualification in public protests was that "the decision of the court has been politicised".

"Is it routine that a judgment is passed and you implement its implications overnight? Was the decision not suspended for 30 days so that the other party has an opportunity to appeal? What was the sense of pre-empting any recourse?" he said.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, among the top opposition leaders in the country, on Saturday said that he was not bothered by the disqualification from parliament, adding he will continue to defend the democratic voice of the people.

Mr Gandhi was disqualified as a lawmaker on Friday, a day after he was found guilty of defamation by a court in Gujarat for a 2019 campaign trail remark seen as insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and billed by the BJP as one that degraded the entire Modi community.

He was sentenced to two years imprisonment but walked free on bail after the sentence was suspended for 30 days. His lawyers vowed to appeal the verdict in a higher court.

However, the conviction has ruled him ineligible to continue sitting as a lawmaker in the lower house of the parliament, the Lok Sabha secretariat said. If the ruling is not overturned, he will not be allowed to contest elections for eight years.