Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said that the conviction of Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case has resulted in a “surprising wave of Opposition unity”, reported PTI.

Tharoor said that many parties have “begun to feel the truth of the adage – united we stand, divided we fall”.

On March 23, a court in Gujarat sentenced Gandhi to two years imprisonment in a criminal defamation case. He was found guilty in a case related to his speech ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi.

A day later, Gandhi was disqualified as a member of Parliament under the Representation of the People Act of 1951. Under the Act, a legislator sentenced to jail for two years or more stands to be disqualified from the date of conviction until six years after serving time.

Opposition leaders have alleged that Gandhi’s conviction in the defamation case is politically motivated, while legal experts told Scroll have that the Congress leader’s comments did not defame all persons with the Modi surname.

Last month, Gandhi, too, had thanked Opposition leaders for their support, saying that they all need to work together against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government.

On Sunday, Tharoor said that after Gandhi’s conviction parties in Opposition have now found a new reason to come together and that the saffron party would now find it much harder to win the Lok Sabha elections next year, PTI reported.

Tharoor also added that the Congress will be the de facto fulcrum around which the Opposition will offer an alternative to the public.

“But if I were in the party [Congress] leadership, I would not crow about it; in fact, I would actually encourage one of the smaller parties to play the role of convenor of an Opposition alliance,” he said, according to PTI. “Unity is far more important than pride of place, in my view.”

Congress should set its house in order first: Deve Gowda

Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda on Sunday said that the Congress must set its house in order before forging unity amongst the Opposition.

“There are many options before opposition parties and this nation has a wealth of leadership,” Gowda told PTI in an interview.

The Janata Dal (Secular) leader also expressed confidence that his party will emerge victorious in the upcoming Assembly elections in Karnataka.

“A lot of people who are cynical and focusing only on the two national parties [Congress and the BJP] will be surprised,” he said. “We are not seeking votes for a divisive agenda. We are seeking votes in the name of an inclusive social and development vision.”

Assembly elections in Karnataka will take place in a single phase on May 10. The results will be announced on May 13.