Rahul Gandhi’s false sadness

The Congress’s faith in the credulity of the people of India seems to be strengthened by every passing moment. The statements its leaders make and the decisions its ministers take are predicated upon the belief that you can fool all the people all the time.

So, Rahul Gandhi said that he was sad because the Tamil Nadu government announced the release of seven people convicted of killing his father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. “Rajiv Gandhi’s killers are being set free, I am saddened by this. I am personally against the death penalty but this is not about my father. If a Prime Minister’s killers are being released, what kind of justice should the common man expect?

Apparently, Rahul is convinced that everybody would believe his feigned sadness. Feigned, because he and his family have done everything possible to ensure that Rajiv’s assassins got away lightly. In 2008, his sister, Priyanka Vadra secretly visited Nalini, one of the killers. “Meeting with Ms. Nalini was my way of coming to peace with the violence and loss that I have experienced,” Priyanka said after meeting the convict. “I do not believe in anger, hatred, and violence and I refuse to allow it any power over my life.” Apparently, Priyanka did not convey her sentimentalism to her own brother.

For some reason, the Gandhi family is particularly forgiving toward Nalini. Congress president Sonia Gandhi herself pleaded for Nalini in 2000 on the grounds that the prisoner on death row had a daughter; the petition resulted in the death sentence getting commuted to life imprisonment.

What is more, Sonia Gandhi has been the most powerful politician in the country since 2004; had she wished, the killers of Rajiv would have been hanged. Rahul himself enjoys no mean authority; his wish is a command for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his ministers, as evident from the scrapping of a notorious ordinance and the raising of cap on subsidized LPG cylinders. Like his mother, Rahul too never to bring the former prime minister’s killers to justice. And now he is wailing that Rajiv did not get justice! But the Divine Family believes that it can fool all the people all the time.

This was also evident from the command that came from 10 Janpath for the passage of the Bill for a separate Telangana state. The promise was made years ago, but the grand old party woke up to the need for and efficacy of small states only when general elections were due in a few weeks’ time. All kinds of tricks were adopted; democratic norms and practices were jettisoned; reminiscent of the dark days of the Emergency, the telecast of Lok Sabha TV was stopped—all in the conviction that power lust could be successfully masqueraded as solicitude for the people of the backward region.

The men and women serving the Dynasty also have imbibed some of its beliefs. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is one of them. In his Interim Budget speech, he set out 10 “tasks” for the next government, top of which was fiscal consolidation. After being an important functionary of the regime for 10 years—a regime whose defining features were fiscal profligacy and mindless populism—he has the cheek to lecture about the virtues of prudence! It is like Vijay Mallya pontificating on corporate governance and fiduciary responsibility.

Chidambaram also talked about price stability and growth. On both counts, his government has failed spectacularly. In the last few years, retail inflation has hovered around the double-digit mark, notwithstanding the United Progressive Alliance’s stated concern for the aam aadmi. During UPA I, the economy expanded phenomenally; this was because of the pro-reforms policies initiated and followed by the previous governments, including that of the Congress in 1991-96. The Leftward drift in policy under Sonia has occasioned a downward move in the country’s growth trajectory.

The Sonia-inspired drift has also jeopardized industrialization and infrastructure projects. But Chidambaram had the temerity to say: “We must rebuild our infrastructure and add a huge quantity of new infrastructure. Every proven model must be adopted and the PPP [public-private partnership] model must be more widely used. New financing structures must be created for long term funds and pooling of investments.

Whatever Chidambaram and other UPA grandees did first killed jobs in manufacturing and the sector itself, but he wants “focus on manufacturing.” The UPA’s socialist bias has led to ballooning subsidies—and now the Finance Minister wants others to be cautious.

More actions and statements of the ruling coalition can be quoted highlighting the chasm between precept and practice. The chasm is not as much about hypocrisy as about their belief in the credulity of the people of India. UPA bosses think that they can tell any number of fairy tales and people would believe them. I wonder if it is hubris at play when Congress worthies claim that they would be able to fool, bribe, or coerce the future historians as they managed the media and the opinion-making apparatus. Recently, Manmohan Singh said, “I honestly believe that history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media or for that matter the Opposition in Parliament.” In his Budget speech, Chidambaram said, “Let history be the judge of the last ten years.”

Unfortunately, for the Congress leaders, before that the people of India would judge them in elections.