Opposition parties on Friday held a march from Parliament to Vijay Chowk in Delhi to protest against Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a defamation case a day ago. Hours after the march, Gandhi was disqualified as a Lok Sabha member.

Earlier on Friday, Opposition leaders marched carrying a large banner that read “democracy in danger”. They reiterated the demand for a joint parliamentary committee investigation into the allegations of stock manipulation against the Adani Group.

On Thursday, a magistrate in Gujarat’s Surat had sentenced the Wayanad MP to two years’ imprisonment for his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname. The court, however, granted him bail and suspended his sentence for 30 days in order to allow him to appeal against the verdict.

At a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi was said to have asked:Why all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names?”

Nirav Modi is a fugitive businessman accused in the Punjab National Bank scam while Lalit Modi is former Indian Premier League chief who has been banned for life by the cricket governing body.

At the protest march, Congress chief Mallikajun Kharge said that the Opposition parties will keep on raising the demand for investigation into the allegations against the Adani Group, reported PTI.

“We are fighting for JPC into Adani issue for months,” he said. “They have a majority but the BJP is scared as there’s something fishy. We’ll keep fighting unitedly for it.”

Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh said that Gandhi’s conviction shows that the Centre wants to eliminate the Opposition by filing cases against them. The Congress has also sought a meeting with President Droupadi Murmu in relation to Gandhi’s conviction.

The Congress staged staged protests in other parts of the country also, accusing the Centre of political vendetta. In Karnataka and Delhi, protestors, including Congress leader DK Shivakumar, were detained by the police, reported NDTV.

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Court verdict example of vendetta politics: Jairam Ramesh

Congress General Secretary in-charge of Communications Jairam Ramesh on Thursday evening told reporters that the court verdict holding Gandhi guilty was an example of the Modi government’s “politics of vendetta, threat and intimidation”.

Ramesh said that the party will fight against the criminal case legally as well as politically. The Congress will hold protests in Delhi and other states on March 27 against the conviction order, he said.

Kharge on Thursday had said that fugitives such as Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi, who have fled the country with hundred of thousands of crores of rupees, are not being punished but action is being taken against Gandhi.

“By shutting one person up, can you shut up 140 crore people?” he asked. “We will keep fighting, don’t think that by two years punishment, the Congress is finished, we will keep fighting. The Congress is alive and will remain so.”

Apart from the Congress, several other Opposition leaders have criticised the conviction and the two-year sentence.

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal said that while his party has differences with the Congress, it was not correct to embroil Gandhi in a defamation case. “There is a conspiracy to finish off non-BJP leaders parties by filing cases against them,” he said.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren accused the BJP of targeting the Opposition. “It is difficult to comprehend whether we are in Amritkaal [75 years of independence as being observed by the Centre] or Apatkaal [state of emergency],” he said. “The country is passing through a strange period.”

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav remarked that BJP leaders should face cases “for the defamation of the country, the people, social harmony, the Constitution and the economy”.

Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Verma said in his order that statements of MPs have a “very wide impact on the public”, PTI reported.

The judge said the Supreme Court had in the past asked Gandhi to be careful about the statements that he makes after he apologised in a 2018 case for his “chowkidar chor hai” remarks. “Despite the Supreme Court alerting the accused, there appears to be no change in his conduct,” the order added.

The court passed the verdict in response to a defamation case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Purnesh Modi.

He alleged that the Congress leader had defamed the Modi community with his remarks. Gandhi, however, has claimed that he made the remarks in a sarcastic vein and did not mean to target any particular community.