Members of India’s main opposition Congress party will take to the streets on Friday to protest their leader Rahul Gandhi’s conviction for defamation, according to party officials, a day after Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison by a magistrate’s court.
Gandhi, 52, was found guilty of using the surname Modi to refer to thieves in a 2019 speech.
He made the remark while campaigning for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies ahead of the last general election.
A court in the western state of Gujarat convicted him, granted him bail, and suspended his sentence for one month. This gave Gandhi time to appeal, but the conviction means he will be removed from parliament immediately.
According to two senior Congress leaders, Gandhi will respect the local court’s decision and will not attend parliament.
“It is true that his membership is currently disqualified, but we will challenge the conviction in court to ensure he can attend parliament proceedings,” a federal lawmaker and Congress leader said.
The current parliament session began on January 31 and will end on April 6.
Officials from the Congress party have stated that they are also relying on regional opposition parties to galvanize political opposition to the verdict.
“It’s a critical political test for Gandhi, and we’re counting on regional parties to back the Congress and oppose Modi’s party,” a second senior Congress leader said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The president’s office confirmed that Congress leaders have requested a meeting with President Draupadi Murmu to express their displeasure with the conviction to the highest constitutional executive.