Opposition leader disqualified from parliament after two-year jail sentence

Briefly: India’s parliament has disqualified Rahul Gandhi, the leader of India’s main opposition party, after he was sentenced to two years in jail for an insult involving Indian Prime Minister Modi. Or, rather, Modi’s surname.

The insult in question: Back in 2019, Gandhi pondered why “all thieves have Modi as [their] common surname”. A fellow MP (also named Modi) filed the defamation case against Gandhi, who has vowed to fight the court’s decision.

A stunning 43% of MPs elected in 2019 have criminal cases against them, many of which are clearly political in nature. But the length and timing of Gandhi’s sentence raises more eyebrows than a Botox technician: it’s just long enough to trigger Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament, and just ahead of next year’s elections.

Intrigue’s take: The ultra-popular Modi has little to fear from Gandhi or any other opposition leader right now. But Gandhi has already made headlines in an attempt to walk (literally) his way back into political power. And there’s nothing like an unjust jail sentence to generate a bit more voter sympathy.

These sorts of cases also put the West in a bind: wanting to partner with India to balance China, but getting these periodic reminders that India doesn’t always see the world in the same way.

Also worth noting:

  • Prime Minister Modi enjoys an approval rating of 78%, one of the highest in the world.
  • Some have accused Modi of attempting to “[impair] freedom of expression and freedom of association”.
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