Indian opposition lawmakers rally against the Modi government

NEW DELHI (AP) — More than 100 Indian opposition lawmakers, including members of the Congress party, staged a protest march Thursday after the end of a parliamentary budget session that was marred by shouting and disruptions to proceedings amid a standoff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The demonstrators carried big national flags and chanted slogans warning that India’s democracy is in danger, and accused Modi’s administration of “misusing” government-run investigation agencies to intimidate opposition leaders.

They were blocked by police after walking a short distance from the Parliament building and forced to disperse. The opposition leaders from more than a dozen parties ended the protest with a news conference.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress party chief, criticized the disqualification of his party’s leader, Rahul Gandhi, as a member of Parliament less than 24 hours after his conviction by a court in a defamation case.

Gandhi is expected to lead the opposition’s challenge against Modi in the 2024 national elections. Gandhi challenged his conviction in an appeals court on Monday.

The court has suspended a two-year prison sentence for Gandhi following his appeal against a criminal conviction for mocking the prime minister’s surname.

“The parliamentary budget session was a washout with the government getting the budget for 2023-24 approved within 12 minutes without a proper debate,” said Kharge.

Law Minister Kiran Rijiju blamed the opposition for disrupting the parliamentary proceedings.

Meanwhile, Modi said his party would be voted to victory for a third straight five-year term “in next year’s national elections given its popularity among people.”

He told his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party workers celebrating the party’s foundation day that Indian people backed the BJP for bringing in a new political culture, while opposition parties were mostly run by political families.

Gandhi said last month he was being targeted because he had raised serious questions about Modi’s relationship with Gautam Adani, who heads the Adani Group.

Gandhi said the objective of his expulsion from Parliament was to prevent him from speaking in the legislature about his allegation of an infusion of an unaccounted $3 billion into shell companies owned by the Adani Group, headed by Gautam Adani.

India’s top court recently ordered an expert committee to investigate any regulatory failures related to the Adani Group.

The investigation was prompted by allegations made by US short-seller Hindenburg Research in a report that accused Adani companies of engaging in market manipulation and other fraudulent practices.

Shares in the group’s flagship, Adani Enterprises, and other affiliated companies have lost tens of billions of dollars in market value since Hindenburg issued its report.

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