Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today said the "silver lining" to the two-year jail sentence of Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case is that it has brought forth an "unprecedented opposition unity". "We have seen regional parties in opposition that in each of their states has regarded the Congress as an opponent, actually come out and stand by our side," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
"We have seen Mr Kejriwal in Delhi, Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, K Chandrasekhar Rao in Hyderabad. These are not figures that in the past had associated in any way with the Congress," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
It was, he said, the "exhibit number one in the law of unintended consequences of the BJP action".
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee had condemned the BJP-led government without naming Rahul Gandhi, saying it was a dark day for democracy. "We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this," tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Mr Tharoor called the charges against Mr Gandhi "preposterous", pointing out that neither fugitive businessmen -- Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi -- are backward. They moved their "ill-gotten gains abroad" and live in the "lap of luxury", he said.
"Saying they belong to backward classes... and the comment an assault on OBCs, is stretching common sense to a breaking point," Mr Tharoor said. "He (Rahul Gandhi) was pointing specially to these three individuals".
Mr Gandhi's "How come all thieves have the common surname Modi" comment had landed him with a two-year jail term and disqualification from parliament. The Gujarat court has granted him bail and 30 days' time to file an appeal.
Mr Tharoor also objected to the sentence -- the highest possible under the charge. The case against Mr Gandhi is weak, and "we have good lawyers," he added. "The actual statement lends itself to a more innocent interpretation... and a fourth Modi, Mr Purnesh Modi, cannot demonstrate that he was targetted in any shape or form," Mr Tharoor said.
Mr Gandhi's lawyer has argued the court proceedings were "flawed" from the beginning. He argued that PM Modi and not MLA Purnesh Modi, should have been the complainant in the case because Mr Gandhi had targeted him in his speech.