Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer.
Winds of change are blowing
India has changed in the last two weeks. To start with, the media vocabulary has changed.
t pains me to begin this Sunday's piece with a tragic event resulting in the loss of my dear friend Gopinath Munde. I first came to know him nearly 30 years ago when I was prosecuting the Antulay case in the early 1980s. He voluntarily approached me with some valuable information about how poor farmers in Beed, his constituency, were being defrauded by corrupt politicians. The material he provided was useful and he volunteered to appear as a witness for the prosecution. Like our new Prime Minister, he was of humble origin, and by his indefatigable service to the nation, he rose to be the Home Minister of Maharashtra in the BJP-Sena government. He verily deserved to be a minister in the NDA government of 2014 and was almost certain to become the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra. But providence, that defies any questioning by mortals, chose to take him under its fold, by directing his demise at a moment of national rejoicing. It is indeed an inconsolable loss to his family, his numerous friends, his constituency, to Maharashtra, and indeed to the nation. I am sometimes mystified at the wisdom of the Almighty. May his soul rest in peace.
Coming back to the real world, the winds of change are blowing across our subcontinent, but all is quiet on the 10, Janpath front, where the motto seems to be that nothing succeeds like failure. Discontent is brewing among the rank and file of the Congress party both in New Delhi and in the states. Congress members are being suspended for daring to question the leadership of the heir apparent and his strange advisers who just blew it. However, he left behind something invaluable for psychologists and artists to ponder about, and that was the enigma of his smile that flashed on and off, as his mother read out the requiem for the Congress party and humbly accepting the people's verdict. I cannot recall any smile after Mona Lisa that has intrigued so many and inspired so much comment. Every inflection of it has been captured, played and replayed to figure out what it was all about. And by and large, there seems to be unanimity that his smile generally expressed great joy and relief that he had been spared the cumbersome and unnecessary responsibility of directly inheriting his father's, grandmother's, and great-grandfather's legacy (exercising it indirectly would have been most pleasurable). Some psychologists also suggest that Rahul's smile seems to depict additional relief that the Congress party figure was a comfortable 44, sparing him the disagreeable occupation of plastering various third fronts with Congress support, making inane speeches and notionally presiding over vulgar political deals. Be that as it may, the Congress party, tethered to the Nehru Gandhi for existence over the past half century, and now to the Nehru Gandhi Maino family, appears to be bankrupt about workable alternatives or discovering a recipe for its revival. The genealogical tree seems to be wasting away, and Congressmen are in wilderness, with no true national leader to inspire them about how to revive their party.
I am reminded at this point about the utterances of Sonia Gandhi over the last decade in her description of a true son of the soil, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. Her Hindi tutors probably thought they would earn easy brownie points, by getting her to articulate some slanderous and sensational coinages that become headlines, such as, maut ka saudagar and zahar ki kheti. But the coinages were costly, the first resulting in a terrific backlash and giving Narendra Modi a resounding electoral victory as Chief Minister in 2002, post riots, and the second giving Modi an unprecedented victory as Prime Minister in the recent election. Sonia's Hindi pundits failed to foresee that their coinages would connect up and take India's memory back to the role of Rajiv Gandhi during the Sikh genocide after Indira Gandhi's assassination, with Rajiv Gandhi proclaiming with indecent haste, "When a big tree falls the earth must shake." Did Soniaji give her husband some sane advice, or did she venture out and offer help and safety to a single human being? I can still recall my efforts supported by my dear daughter Rani in rescuing some terrified, injured and shattered Sikhs and providing them treatment through a friend, Dr Jain, when government hospitals refused them treatment. Now that she has more leisure, Soniaji should seriously reflect upon who the real maut ke saudagars were. And how her highest priority, next to looting the nation, was to somehow accuse Narendra Modi without a shred of evidence of every crime she could fabricate. The strategy was meticulously conceived and executed through multi-pronged attack — employing the might of state power during the last decade of UPA rule; commandeering an army of NGOs funded from questionable sources; and keeping the pressure on media allies, to ensure Modi's political assassination. I have written enough about the Goebbelsian propaganda perpetrated against Modi, even though he took every step to bring the unfortunate riot situation under control and take action against the perpetrators, both Hindu and Muslim, unlike his Congress predecessors under whom riots and their aftermath went on for months together, and perpetrators still roam free. After Modi's phenomenal success this month, when Sonia Gandhi and her son met Narendra Modi face to face, they should have both bowed before him and sought forgiveness for their vile fabrication of false charges and vicious abuse. Narendra Modi has of course left them to the judgement of Providence or God in whom he fervently believes.
I have recently read that neither Sonia nor her son, have chosen to assume the mantle of leading the decimated Congress party in Parliament, and have bequeathed the honour to Mallikarjun Kharge. Noblesse oblige indeed, smacking of a complete lack of confidence of leading from the front and facing the challenges looming large before them. So much easier to hand it over to a native minion, and continue pulling the strings from behind, an expertise acquired to perfection over the last decade under Manmohan Singh's regime.
As I left for London, I was informed that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) was holding its first sitting on 2 June. I believe as a citizen of India, whose petition in the Supreme Court resulted in its historic judgment of 4 July 2011, that the role of the SIT is of great national significance. The work on this team is going to be long and laborious, but its success will remove all the ills that ail this unfortunate nation and will win the eternal gratitude of large sections of our people who are victims of abysmal poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease and crime.
In the nature of things, the proceedings of the SIT will have to be more or less in complete secrecy, and not in the form of judicial duties governed by strict rules of evidence. Let me also add that sometimes valuable clues might become available from persons not known to be completely trustworthy or even from pure hearsay or occasionally even market rumours. These have equal and often valuable potential for becoming starting points of investigation, which at the end may well produce material admissible in law and credible in fact. That of course depends on the efficiency and honesty of the investigation and some degree of character in potential witnesses.
As the first Petitioner in Writ Petition No 176/2009, which led to the creation of the SIT, I have done a great deal of investigation, as much as is possible by a person without statutory powers, in spite of the handicaps arising from obstruction of powerful criminals involved. I believe that I have a duty, if not a right, to assist the SIT with whatever consultation and advice they might require. For instance, some complex documents have recently come into my possession during the last few days that have shed light on matters that I had long suspected were frustrating further investigation.
India has changed in the last two weeks since Narendra Modi took charge. The media vocabulary has changed. No more use of words like divisive and polarizing and communal. No more debates on "secularism" or "Hindutva", the true meaning of which neither the TV anchors, nor the participants had cared to study or understand. Panel discussions are being held on the SIT and black money, something that should have started at least two years ago.
The people of India wait with patience, but great expectation, for the substantive agenda of the Prime Minister's governance to roll out, particularly regarding rising prices and inflation, job creation and attacking corruption. The Prime Minister is a man of action, and the top two tiers of governance — the ministers and bureaucrats — have already got the message. Narendra Modi has merely started rolling up his sleeves. Let us wait for the real action to begin.