Normal and standard for us to engage with opposition leaders: US on reaching out to ex-MP Rahul Gandhi
"We are 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," State Department's Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said
The United States is watching the court case of Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, State Department's Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said while observing that Washington continues to engage with India on the shared commitment towards democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression.
Responding to a question on Rahul Gandhi's expulsion from Parliament, Patel said: "So 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 added.
Rahul Gandhi was on March 23 sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his "why all thieves have Modi surname" remark. A day later, he was disqualified from the Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction in the case.
When asked specifically about whether the Joe Biden administration was still engaging with Rahul Gandhi as the opposition leader, the State Department spokesperson said: "I don’t have any specific engagements to read out. But as I am sure you know, as someone who has 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. But I don’t have any specific engagement to read out."
Opposition parties in India stepped up their offensive against the Narendra Modi government and observed a "black day for democracy" on Monday, three days after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha.
The BJP condemned the ruckus created by the Opposition in Parliament and accused the Congress of resorting to "low-level politics" in its bid to justify Gandhi's remarks against the OBC community.