The Congress leaders seem to be convinced that they can fool all the people all the time. The grand old party has reasons to be sanguine about the efficacy of this mantra, for it has ruled the country most of the time after Independence despite having made a mess of governance, economy, and national security. The GOP’s sanguineness was evident in its reaction to the court summons to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and other party leaders in the National Herald case.
Since the case was filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, who makes no bones about his antipathy towards Sonia and Rahul, the Congress response is predicated upon Swamy’s personal equation with the Dynasty. Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala accused the BJP of indulging in a vendetta against Congress. “The entire episode leading to the filing of a complaint by Swamy is nothing but a motivated, mischievous, and malicious attempt by him and BJP’s dirty-tricks department to unleash their revengeful vendetta.”
The statement is mendacious on many counts. First, the BJP has nothing to do with the case. In fact, Swamy filed the case when he was not even a member of the party which, at any rate, has been of no help to him in this matter. The BJP’s inaction actually galls Swamy who tweeted: “If I can do this in NH case without power of office why can’t those with power prosecute TDK [Sonia] and send her to Tihar?” In another tweet, he said that Finance Minister Arun “Jaitely can order investigation under Income Tax Act against TDK for misusing party funds in the NH case as per my letter to him. Will he?”
Second, the summons was sent to the top Congress leaders by Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha. She has done so because she saw prima facie evidence against the accused after a number of hearings, a couple of which I attended. Surjewala’s statement is an affront more to the magistrate than to Swamy.
Finally, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the motives of the accuser cannot be a consideration if he points out criminality in a matter. Even if Swamy’s attempt is “motivated, mischievous, and malicious,” the accused have to respond to the charges leveled against them. Swamy’s personal equation with the accused is of no significance.
But the Congress persisted with emphasis on Swamy’s animus towards the Gandhis. Even a senior lawyer and Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “Dr. Swamy is known for his personal, motivated campaign against the Congress and you can take it that as and when we receive the papers and take the full legal advice a very vigorous response will be filed in respect of this completely false and motivated complaint.”
Instead of responding to the charges made by Swamy, the Congress reiterated empty threats and made inane remarks. It said that it would file a defamation suit against Swamy. Party leader Anand Sharma said, “We will show him his true place.” Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi’s office had made the same threat in November 2012, but didn’t follow it up with action when Swamy dared them to do that.
Calling Swamy a “habitual petition writer and document peddler,” Sharma said that Swamy had earlier castigated the BJP and the RSS and had said the “most scandalous things” about saffron leaders including Atal Behari Vajpayee. “BJP and RSS should be more concerned that they have such an element with them. If they say his actions are in the right course then what about his past allegations,” Sharma asked.
Could there be anything more hypocritical than Sharma’s concern for the BJP and the RSS? Normally, Congress leaders love to slam the ‘communal’ BJP and the ‘fascistic’ RSS. And now they are showing such solicitude for the saffron organizations!
The Congress’ hypocrisy is matched only by the timidity of the BJP. The ruling party—instead of gloating over the discomfiture of principal rivals in the national arena, and that too because of the efforts of their own leader—is busy proving the point that it is not engaged in any “vendetta” against the Gandhis. The saffron party seems to have distanced itself from Swamy’s crusade against corruption.
Shah Commission Syndrome
At the heart of the BJP’s diffidence lies what can be called the Shah Commission Syndrome. The commission, under former chief justice of India J.C. Shah, was set up by the Janata Party government in 1977 to inquire into the excesses committed during the Emergency (1975-77). It is widely believed that the first non-Congress regime focused more on penalizing Indira Gandhi and others behind the Emergency than on governance; this led to the fall of the Janata government in 1979 and the revival of the Congress.
The belief is on a very shaky foundation for four reasons. First, history does not repeat itself—at least not perfectly: events are never Xeroxed. Second, the approach of the Janata regime was ham-handed, reeking of a desire to exact vengeance rather than bring the guilty to justice. Third, Indira Gandhi was accused of abuse of power, not of corruption. The same cannot be said about Sonia, who presided over the most corrupt regime in the last two centuries. All her life, the stink of corruption has surrounded her; even when she was not in politics, it was because of her relatives that the Rajiv Gandhi government fell. As UPA chairperson and de facto prime minister, she took all the decisions that the puppet Manmohan Singh executed faithfully. Fourth, prosecuting corrupt politicians is justice, not vendetta.
The BJP needs to shed the Shah Commission Syndrome and strive to uphold the cause of justice.