) The US has said it is watching Rahul Gandhi’s case and that it engages with the Indian government on the commitment to democratic values and freedom of expression, following the Congress leader’s conviction and sentencing by a court for his “Modi” surname comment and his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
Indian-American State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel, answering a question on Rahul Gandhi at a media briefing in Washington, said:
“Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we’re watching Mr. Gandhi’s case in Indian courts, and we engage with the Government of India on our shared commitment to democratic values – including, of course, freedom of expression.”
“In our engagements with our Indian partners, we continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression, as a key to strengthening both our democracies,” he said.
Asked if the US engages with Rahul Gandhi as the Opposition leader, he said:
“I don’t have any specific engagements to read out… But as I’m sure you know as someone who’s covered this department for some time, it is normal and standard for us to engage with members of opposition parties in any country where we have bilateral relationships.”
Rahul Gandhi was on March 23 sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his comment that “all thieves have the Modi surname”. Following his conviction and sentencing, he was also disqualified from the Lok Sabha and has been asked to vacate his official MP’s bungalow.
The Opposition has united to attack the Modi government over the issue.