Amidst an ongoing face-off between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party over Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha, Germany has 'taken note' of the issue, triggering a fresh political slugfest on Thursday with the ruling party accusing the opposition party of 'inviting foreign powers' to interfere in internal matters.
The BJP attack came after senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh thanked the German foreign ministry and Richard Walker, Chief International Editor of Deutsche Welle, for 'taking note of how Democracy is being compromised in India through the persecution of Rahul Gandhi'.
The Congress alleged that the BJP was attempting to divert attention from the Adani issue.
Singh tagged a tweet by Walker in which the senior journalist had posted a video of a German foreign ministry spokesperson reacting to Gandhi's disqualification.
At a press briefing, Germany's foreign ministry spokesperson said, "We have taken note of the verdict of first instance against Indian opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as well as the suspension of his parliamentary mandate."
"To our knowledge, Mr Gandhi is in a position to appeal the verdict. It will then become clear whether this verdict will stand and whether the suspension of his mandate has any basis," the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Germany expects that 'standards of judicial independence and fundamental democratic principles' will equally apply to the proceedings against Rahul Gandhi, the spokesperson added.
A host of BJP leaders attacked the Congress and Singh, accusing the party of 'inviting foreign interference' in internal affairs.
Sharing a screenshot of Digivijaya Singh's tweet, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said, 'Thank you Rahul Gandhi for inviting foreign powers for interference into India's internal matters.'
'Remember, Indian Judiciary can't be influenced by foreign interference. India won't tolerate 'foreign influence' anymore because our Prime Minister is:- Shri @narendramodi Ji,' Rijiju said.
Hitting back at Rijiju, Congress' media department head Pawan Khera said, 'Mr Rijiju, why divert from the main issue? The issue is that the Prime Minister cannot answer Rahul Gandhi's questions about Adani.'
Instead of 'misleading' people, please answer the questions, Khera said.
Attacking the Congress over Singh's tweet, Information and Broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said, 'disgrace to nation, @INCIndia & @RahulGandhi don't believe to fight India's democratic, political and legal battle within country, hence, invite foreign powers to interfere in our internal matter. But New India headed by @narendramodi Ji will not tolerate any foreign intervention.'
Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman also slammed the Congress over Singh's tweet.
'Apparent that @INCIndia wants foreign interference in our affairs. Sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Communist Party of China with opaque contents. During interactions abroad, plead for help to change government. Thank them when help forthcoming. Any more proof needed?' she said.
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal retweeted Sitharaman's tweet.
Tagging Singh's tweet, BJP's foreign affairs department head leader Vijay Chauthaiwale said on Twitter, 'look how happy @digvijaya_28 ji with comments from Germany. It only shows how they are desperate to involve external agencies in domestic matters'.
BJP's IT department head Amit Malviya also tagged Singh's tweet and said, 'Shameful that Congress continues to lean on foreign agencies and seek their intervention in India's internal affairs.'
'Rahul Gandhi had recently sought Europe and US intervention and now it is Digvijay Singh. But Law is the Law Unless somebody thinks Law is not the Law for them,' he said.
BJP spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also hit out at the Congress, alleging that the party 'celebrating Germany/U.S. remarks on Rahul Gandhi's case shows their political desperation'.
'Rejected by Indian voters now looking for acceptance by foreign powers is sad reality of Congress! Judiciary must take note of daily maligning of courts by Congress brigade!' he said.
Gandhi was disqualified from Lok Sabha on March 23 after a court in Gujarat's Surat convicted him in a 2019 defamation case over his 'Modi surname' remark.
Earlier this week, a US state department official had said the United States is watching the court case of Rahul Gandhi.
The official observed that the US continues to engage with India on the shared commitment towards democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression.
Speaking at a media event Thursday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said no foreign diplomat has raised with him the issue of Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from the Lok Sabha, which was an outcome of a law 'supported' by the Congress leader in the past.
"The legal process produced an outcome. The outcome triggered a law, which Rahul Gandhi had himself supported some years ago," he said referring to the verdict of a Gujarat court sentencing the Congress leader to a two-year jail term in a defamation case.
Earlier this month, Gandhi's remarks during his recent trip to the UK had also rocked Parliament, with both Houses failing to transact any significant business in the second half of the budget session.
During his interactions in the UK, Gandhi alleged that the structures of Indian democracy are under attack and there is a 'full-scale assault' on the country's institutions.
The former Congress president also told British parliamentarians in London that microphones are often 'turned off' in the Lok Sabha when an opposition member raises important issues.
Gandhi's remarks triggered a political row, with the BJP accusing him of maligning India on foreign soil and seeking foreign interventions, and the Congress hitting back at the ruling party by citing instances of Prime Minister Modi raising internal politics abroad.