Union minister Ramdas Athavale on Saturday said that if Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had apologised for the remarks he made in the United Kingdom, he would not have been disqualified from the Lok Sabha, The Times of India reported.

Gandhi, who was the MP from Wayanad, was disqualified a day after a Gujarat court convicted him to two years in jail in a defamation case 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.

Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Purnesh Modi had filed the defamation case against Gandhi. The Congress leader claimed that he made the remarks in a sarcastic vein and did not mean to target any particular community.

Athvale was talking about Gandhi’s comments in the UK where he had claimed that India was facing an attack on the basic structure of its democracy and a “full-scale assault” on the institutions of the country. He had also told British MPs that microphones of Opposition leaders were muted in Parliament and described the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a “fundamentalist” and “fascist” organisation.