Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after a Surat court convicted him in a defamation case and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment for his remark on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname in 2019.

“I am fighting for the voice of India. I am prepared to pay any price,” Gandhi tweeted after the Lok Sabha secretariat announced his disqualification.

The move sparked strong criticism from Opposition leaders, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, among others, who put aside their differences with the Congress to rally behind Gandhi.

Gandhi was disqualified from Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction (March 23), per a notice issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat on Friday. Wayanad, the Lok Sabha constituency he represented, now falls vacant and a byelection would be duly notified.

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‘New low’

“While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the Cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches. Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy,” said Banerjee in a tweet. “Today’s government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more dangerous than the British rule,” said Kejriwal.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, at a press briefing on Friday, said the party was confident about getting a stay on the conviction, which would remove the very basis of the disqualification. “We have full faith in the law. We believe we will emerge victorious in the near future,” he said.

The Gujarat court granted bail to Gandhi and suspended his sentence for a month to allow him to appeal against it.