In a surprise move, the Narendra Modi Government decided to go by the law and disqualified Rahul Gandhi following his conviction by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat in a criminal defamation case on March 23 for his remark on the “Modi surname” while addressing an election rally in Karnataka in 2019. The Wayanad MP will be the second member after Lakshadweep Lok Sabha member PP Mohammed Faizal, who was disqualified within two days after his conviction in an attempt-to-murder case on January 11. Interestingly, Faisal’s disqualification by the Speaker was not revoked even after he appealed to the Kerala HC for a stay on his conviction and sentence, which the HC suspended on January 25. Official sources said the government felt encouraged to move against Rahul after several legal experts including Kapil Sibal pointed out that he stands automatically disqualified as an MP and getting only the jail sentence suspended was not enough. Rahul could have continued as an MP only if his conviction was stayed. That’s why eyebrows were raised about his visit to Lok Sabha a day after his conviction. In being convicted by a court, Rahul joins his grandmother Indira Gandhi who was convicted of election fraud in 1975. While Rahul’s legal team is confident of overturning the Surat court’s verdict in higher courts, party circles have begun to think of facing 2024 polls without Rahul. But then is Priyanka Vadra ready to helm the party at this crucial juncture?