India’s key opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi after being disqualified from parliament.
Mr Gandhi, 52, was expelled on Friday after he was sentenced to two years in jail for making defamatory remarks relating to Mr Modi’s surname at a 2019 rally, before the last general election.
Mr Gandhi – who is chairman of the youth wing of the Congress party Indian Youth Congress – claimed he was only being targeted because he had raised serious questions about Mr Modi’s relationship with the Indian business conglomerate, Adani Group.
Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, he said his disqualification from parliament was a bid to prevent him speaking about an allegation of an unaccounted $3bn (£2.4bn), that was put into shell companies owned by the Group.
”Some of these defence companies are working in drone and missile development and ordnance production. Why is the Defence Ministry not asking questions,” Mr Modi said.
Key opposition leader in India disqualified from parliament
Indian MP sentenced to two years in prison
“Nobody knows where this money has come from. Adani couldn’t generate this money.”
He also alleged that a Chinese national was involved in the Group’s shell companies and that Mr Modi was helping the company win contracts to build ports, roads and power plants in Sri Lanka and Australia.
Following a report by a US financial research firm that accused the Group of fraud and stock price manipulation, Mr Gandhi has demanded a parliamentary committee investigation.
Since 2014 – when Mr Modi became prime minister – the Group’s net worth has shot up nearly 2,000% to $125bn (£102bn), according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, a top leader of the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party, rejected the accusations and said Mr Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament had nothing to do with the Adani Group controversy.
The Group has also denied any wrongdoing.
Following Mr Gandhi’s conviction on Thursday, the court granted bail for 30 days in order for the defence to file an appeal against the verdict, meaning he will not go to prison straight away.
On Saturday, the opposition leader did not indicate how soon his legal team will approach the appeal, which could save his seat in parliament.