NEW DELHI, Aug 7 (PTI): Over four months after he was disqualified, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi returned to Lok Sabha on Monday with his membership of the Lower House restored in the wake of the Supreme Court staying his conviction in a defamation case.
His return as an MP comes as a boost to the opposition ranks ahead of the no-trust motion against the Modi government which is likely to be taken up in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Gandhi is set to be one of the key speakers of the opposition bloc INDIA that would look to send a message to the people through the motion even as its outcome is a foregone conclusion with the numbers heavily stacked in favour of the ruling NDA.
Announcing the reinstatement of Gandhi as an MP, a Lok Sabha notification said in the wake of the SC order on Friday, the disqualification has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements.
Soon after the Lok Sabha secretariat communication, Gandhi reached the Parliament House and offered floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi’s statue before entering the House to attend proceedings around noon. But the House was adjourned within minutes.
Inside the Parliament premises, Gandhi was also seen spending time with his mother and Lok Sabha MP Sonia Gandhi. He also went to the Central Hall of Parliament where he briefly interacted with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Sanjay Raut.
Gandhi also paid respects to former Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi on his death anniversary in the DMK party office in Parliament.
He was accorded a warm welcome by the Congress and other opposition MPs on his arrival in Parliament which saw festive scenes at the main gate and the first floor of Parliament with sweets being distributed and slogans being raised in favour of the former AICC chief.
Later, at the party office where he attended a meeting of Haryana leaders for Lok Sabha poll preparations in the state, Gandhi told reporters that “It is a strange thing, even you people look happy”. He was asked about his reinstatement.
Gandhi also posted a video of his first day after returning as an MP with a Hindi caption “returned to Parliament today after paying obeisance to Bapu (Mahtama Gandhi)”.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said the notification was a “welcome step” and it brings relief to the people of India, and especially to Wayanad.
“Whatever time is left of their tenure, BJP and Modi government should utilise that by concentrating on actual governance rather than denigrating Democracy by targeting opposition leaders,” Kharge said on Twitter.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi will speak during the no-confidence motion discussion in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Kharge, who was leaving the AICC headquarters after attending a meeting, said he “will definitely speak”.
Playing down Gandhi’s return to Lok Sabha, BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi asserted that Rahul has not been declared “‘dosh-mukt (acquitted)’ and only a stay has been given on the conviction”.
“The matter is still pending with the court in Gujarat and we should wait for that. There is only a stay on his conviction, he is not acquitted. Also, the Supreme Court said that it (Gandhi’s remark) was not in good taste and that should be kept in mind,” Modi said.
“He was there in Parliament earlier also, what difference did it make to the Congress, they still lost elections. So his being in the House should not make the people of the Congress too happy,” the former Bihar deputy chief minister said.
As soon as the news about Gandhi’s reinstatement broke, Kharge who was in a meeting with opposition bloc INDIA leaders in his chamber on floor coordination, treated them to sweets.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “The voice of the real issues of the people” will reverberate again in Parliament.
AICC general secretary, Organisation, KC Venugopal said, “Democracy has won! India wins”.
“Sh. @RahulGandhi ji will continue his parliamentary journey by speaking the truth without any hesitation. He is the voice of India, he can never be silenced,” he said.
Several Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) leaders also hailed Gandhi’s return as an MP with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav saying he hoped that the Uttar Pradesh assembly membership of party leader Mohammad Azam Khan and his son Abdulla Azam too will be restored.
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said it is very good that Gandhi is back in the House.
“We hope that he will strengthen India and will try to rid the country of its problems,” Abdullah said.
Addressing a meeting of PDP workers in Jammu, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti congratulated Gandhi and said she is looking forward to seeing him “roaring like a lion” in Parliament on public issues.
With his Lok Sabha membership restored, Gandhi changed his Twitter bio to ‘Member of Parliament’ from the earlier “Dis’Qualified MP” description.
His Twitter bio now describes him as a member of the Indian National Congress and a Member of Parliament.
Gandhi was disqualified in March after a Gujarat court convicted him in a defamation case and sentenced him to two years in jail. A punishment of two years and above automatically disqualifies a lawmaker.
The Supreme Court on Friday last stayed his conviction, paving the way for the restoration of his Lok Sabha membership. The stay will also enable Gandhi to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi, 53, represents Wayanad in the lower house.
Celebrations also broke out at the AICC headquarters here with workers dancing and raising slogans in favour of Gandhi.