The Congress will win the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections as the people there have become the opposition to the ruling BJP government, senior party leader and MP Manish Tewari said here on Friday. Responding to a reporter’s question on what he thought would be the outcome of the Assembly elections in the neighbouring state, Tewari said, ”We are winning. Yeah. We are winning Karnataka.” Elections to the Legislative Assembly in Karnataka will be held in a single phase on May 10, setting the stage for yet another showdown between the ruling BJP and the Congress ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Speaking at a press conference held at the party’s state headquarters Indira Bhavan here, Tewari said, ”There is an intrinsic sense of equity, justice and fair play in the people of the country. They (people) know, they can feel it when things reach or go too far. I think we have come to a point in the term of this government (Karnataka) where the people are becoming the opposition.” ”Every government should be careful when the role or mantel of the opposition is no longer with the opposition party, but rather gets transferred to the people. It is a very ominous portent which you ignore at your own peril,” the Congress MP from Punjab said. Tewari held the press conference to talk about the legal issues surrounding Rahul Gandhi’s conviction and sentencing in a criminal defamation case by a Surat court last week and his subsequent disqualification from the Lok Sabha as a result of it. The MP who is also a lawyer said that, according to the party, Gandhi’s conviction and sentencing was ”bad in law” and his disqualification was ”unconstitutional”. Giving reasons to support his claims, Tewari said that in criminal defamation there was no concept of class action, and the person who filed the complaint was not mentioned or referred to in the speech by Gandhi at Kolar, Karnataka in 2019.
”It is an issue of personal harm against which a personal remedy has to be pursued by the person feeling personally aggrieved. In this case, the person who filed the complaint was nowhere referred to in the speech,” he said. There also has to be an intent to cause harm for making out a case of criminal defamation, he added, saying that many courts, including the Supreme Court, had said so. ”In this particular instance, there was no intention to cause harm to anybody. Yes, in the course of a political speech, there were political points which were made by Rahul Gandhi,” the Congress MP said. There was also the issue of jurisdiction, he added. The incident happened in Kolar in Karnataka, Tewari said, but the case was filed in Surat, Gujarat. ”For all these reasons, the ingredients of a criminal defamation case were prima facie not made out,” he said. Regarding Gandhi’s disqualification, Tewari said that sentencing was also a requirement under the Representation of People Act to disqualify an MP and since the punishment was suspended by the court for 30 days, the ingredients to disqualify him were also not made out. Furthermore, power to disqualify did not lie with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, but with the President of India who has to take a decision based on the advice of the Election Commission, Tewari contended. ”In this case, within 24 hours of his conviction, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified and within another 24 hours he was asked to vacate his official residence. The malafide intention is clear from these orders. ”Why it is happening is the political part. Why it is happening is because Rahul Gandhi was raising uncomfortable questions with regard to Adani Group in the wake of the Hindenburg report,” the Congress MP said.
He also said that the Congress has been ”consistently and repeatedly” demanding that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) be constituted to look into allegations against Adani. ”Therefore, we emphatically state that Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification was hasty, unnecessary, unconstitutional and, therefore, it is not a question of Rahul Gandhi alone, it is a question of democratic values, of democratic traditions and whether this country would be run based on rule of law and the Constitution of India, which clearly does not seem to be the case in Rahul Gandhi’s matter,” he said. He also denied there was any delay by Congress in pursuing legal remedies against Gandhi’s conviction. The trial court records were voluminous and in Gujarati and therefore it was taking time to carefully and correctly translate them, he said. ”Moreover, the court has granted 30 days time to file an appeal. Therefore, there is no hurry. It is the BJP government which hurriedly disqualified him and asked him to vacate his official residence. Their malafides are evident from that,” Tewari said. Gandhi was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat Court on March 23 in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his ”Modi surname” remark. A day later, the Lok Sabha Secretariat in a notification disqualified him, saying the disqualification would be effective from the day of his conviction.