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An Indian opposition leader has been sentenced to two years in prison for making defamatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi – a prominent descendent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty – was sentenced over comments he made relating to Mr Modi’s surname in 2019 at an election rally.

Gandhi asked the crowd at the event: “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?”

He went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Modi is not related to the other two.

The defamation case against Gandhi was filed by a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the western state of Gujarat.

The complainant, Purnesh Modi, said Gandhi’s comments “defamed the entire Modi community”.

Modi is a common surname in the state.

Gandhi, who was present in court when the verdict was read out, said his remarks were meant to highlight corruption and not directed against any community.

He will not go to jail immediately as the court granted bail for 30 days to file an appeal against the verdict.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the president of the Congress Party, which Gandhi belongs to, said the politician will appeal against the verdict in a higher court and called Mr Modi’s government “cowardly and dictatorial”.

After the verdict, Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, and non-violence the means to get it.”

His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, also a Congress leader, tweeted: “Scared rulers are pulling out all stops to suppress the voice of @RahulGandhi ji.

“My brother has never been afraid, nor will he ever be.

“He will continue to speak the truth. Will continue to raise the voice of the people of the country. The power of truth and the love of crores [millions] of countrymen are with him.”

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Gandhi is one of the main opposition leaders in India and will most likely go up against Mr Modi when the latter seeks re-election next year.

Mr Gandhi is currently the MP for Wayanad in the southern state of Kerala and a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

His great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of India, his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi also held the position.

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