India's Gandhi vows to keep fighting after removal from parliament

Top Indian opposition figure Rahul Gandhi said Saturday (Mar 25) he would keep fighting for democracy after blaming his expulsion from parliament on his demands for a probe into a key business ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gandhi, 52, was stripped of his parliamentary seat on Friday, a day after he was convicted of defamation in Modi's home state of Gujarat for a 2019 campaign-trail remark seen as an insult to the premier.

Modi's government has been widely accused by political opponents and rights groups of using the law to target and silence critics, but Gandhi said he would not bow to intimidation.

"I will do whatever I have to do to defend the democratic nature of this country," he told reporters.

"They are used to everybody being scared of them," he said, in reference to the ruling party. "I am not scared of them."

The removal from parliament of Modi's chief opponent comes at a time when the prime minister's relationship with Gautam Adani, one of India's most powerful industrialists, has been under scrutiny.

Modi has been a close associate of Adani for decades but the latter's business empire has been subject of renewed attention this year after a US investment firm accused it of "brazen" corporate fraud.

Gandhi's opposition Congress party has for weeks demanded a proper investigation by parliament of the allegations.

"I have been disqualified because the prime minister ... is scared of the next speech that is going to come on Adani," Gandhi told reporters.

"I will continue to ask the question - what is the prime minister's relationship with Mr. Adani?"

Congress supporters held small protests in several cities around the country on Saturday to protest against Gandhi's removal as a lawmaker.