Opposition parties led by Congress are today marched towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan from nearby Vijay Chowk amid heavy security deployment, which was tasked with stopping the leaders from reaching their destination, with a huge "democracy in danger" banner. The march was soon dispersed as MPs were detained and taken away to nearby police stations in a bus. Police said they didn't have permission for the march. The President had also not given them time for a meeting.
The parties, reiterating their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Adani-Hindenburg issue, are seeking a meeting with President Droupadi Murmu. They called the buzz around Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's sentencing in a 2019 criminal defamation case a ploy to distract from the Prime Minister's alleged friendship with billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani, which they say has caused massive loss of public money kept in state-linked companies like LIC and SBI after Adani shares tanked following accusations of stock manipulation.
Congress units in several states have also launched simultaneous protests, accusing the Centre of political vendetta. Karnataka police detained Congress state president DK Shivakumar and other party leaders and workers who were protesting against the Surat Court verdict against Mr Gandhi.
The BJP has said the conviction has come from an independent judiciary after Mr Gandhi insulted the OBC community with his 'thief' remark.
Congress has called it an excuse to silence Mr Gandhi, who had written to the Lok Sabha Speaker requesting time to respond to allegations against him about his controversial London remarks. Congress chief and Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge accused the Centre of hounding opposition leaders by misusing central probe agencies. "This march is to save the constitution and democracy in the country," he said.
Mr Gandhi attended Lok Sabha proceedings after a meeting of party MPs before the start of the House proceedings. Congress Parliamentary Party Chief Sonia Gandhi was also present during the meeting.
The House was adjourned till 12 pm, seconds after convening amid ruckus over various issues, and Rahul Gandhi left Parliament soon after that.
A court in Gujarat's Surat yesterday sentenced Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in the case, filed on a complaint by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi for his alleged remark, "How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?" The court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal to a higher court.
Members of 12 opposition parties met in the office of Congress chief and Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge in the Parliament before the march.
Congress general secretary KC Venugopal called the Surat court verdict "unfortunate", and said the government was trying to stop him from speaking ever since he raised the Adani-Hindenburg issue.
"We have analysed the situation. The verdict was so unfortunate as far as Congress Party is concerned. We will do a solidarity march for Congress Party. We are seeking an appointment with the President. From day 1 onwards, when Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of Adani, the Government of India side came to stop him. They do not want Rahul Gandhi to speak in Parliament. They are varying all options to stop his voice," he told news agency ANI.
"But Rahul Gandhi and Congress party will speak. This issue is not because of Rahul Gandhi. It is because the country's environment is like that. All opposition is getting suppressed. I am happy that parties are showing solidarity," he added.
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